By LaKeshia N. Myers
August is Black Business Month, a time to celebrate and cherish the many African American owned businesses across the country. In 2019, there were 134,567 Black-owned employer businesses (businesses with more than one employee) in all sectors of the U.S. economy, an 8% hike from the 124,551 Black-owned employer businesses in 2018, according to the Annual Business Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau. This is important as we are seeing a shift from big box retailers to smaller community-based shopping in most communities. It is also important when understanding African Americans’ buying power of $1.2 trillion dollars.
According to the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility, “healthy Black-owned businesses could be a critical component for closing the United States’ Black–white wealth gap, which we project will cost the economy $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion (in 2018 dollars) per year by 2028” (McKinsey, 2022).
African American businesses have been integral to the stabilization of our community for generations. In Wisconsin, we are fortunate to have Columbia Savings & Loan Association, the first (and only surviving) Black banking institution in the state of Wisconsin. Columbia is one of only forty-two Black banks in the United States. Started in 1924 by Mr. Wilbur & Mrs. Ardie Halyard, the bank has financed home loans for many African American families and churches in the community.
I make a concerted effort to purchase goods and services from Black owned businesses whenever possible. For work or play, there is more than likely a minority vendor offering a service. Understanding that these are usually small businesses, offering unique products, and directly impacting families. I encourage everyone to explore a new Black owned business by downloading the MKE Black app or by picking up a copy of the Wisconsin Black Pages.