By staff writer
September 2018 – 2 min. read
Philadelphia is a majority-minority city, with a population that is about 41 percent white (not including mixed races), according to the U.S. Census Bureau. (Compare that to New York, which is roughly 43 percent white.) Philly also ranks in the top 10 for U.S. cities with the highest levels of poverty. Many believe there is a correlation between minority racial groups and high poverty rates. Janelle Jones from the Economic Policy Institute stated that “average wealth for white families is seven times higher than that of black families, while median wealth for white families is 12 times higher than for black families.”
According to U.S. Census data released in September 2016, out of the country’s top 10 major metropolitan areas, Philadelphia ranked ninth for minority-owned businesses, with 15.7 percent. The City of Brotherly Love also ranked ninth for female-owned businesses, with 18.5 percent. Additionally, Philly lagged in the number of new businesses under two years old, with only 7.8 percent. However, despite these grim numbers, the city is making slow and steady progress in helping to bridge the gap between white- and minority-owned businesses.
Jennifer Rodriguez, President & CEO, Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
On a national scale, minority-owned businesses have seen quite a bit of growth in the past decade, increasing the country’s small business sector by 38 percent. During the recession, Philadelphia’s minority-owned businesses thrived despite an overall decline in non-minority business growth. Like other major U.S. cities, Philadelphia’s minority-owned businesses are on the rise. According to the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, while progress is slow, improvements are being made across the board.
There are many minority-owned business success stories in Philadelphia, such as TechLink Systems Inc., which brought in $26.2 million in 2017, and Arora Engineers Inc., which brought in $23.7 million. But for those businesses that have not enjoyed that kind of success, or for minority business owners looking to connect to a supportive network, organizations like the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are here to help.
Jennifer Rodriguez, the chamber’s president and CEO, sat down with Invest: Philadelphia earlier this year to discuss her organization’s role in helping Hispanic business owners reach their goals — like breaking the million-dollar sales barrier. The chamber creates a network for Latino and Latina business owners and allows them to gain valuable expertise through its master class, offered in partnership with Temple University’s Fox School of Business.
“One attempt to recognize and provide a value-packed opportunity for our entrepreneurs is our Small Business Roadshow,” Rodriguez told Invest: “We bring together 30 or 40 entrepreneurs in one room with an accountant, a lawyer, a marketing specialist, etc., and really talk about what it takes to run a successful business. The entrepreneurs walk away with an amazing rolodex of professionals they can call on when the time comes, and it really solidifies this small business community.”
The network available to minority-owned businesses does not just end at the city’s borders, however. The African-American Chamber of Commerce of PA/NJ/DE promotes trade and commerce with New Jersey and Delaware, as well.
Lack of representation poses an imminent problem for many minority and white business owners alike. Michael Banks, president and CEO of the African-American Chamber of Commerce, discussed the importance of representation across the entire business community.
“The region is getting better at bringing minority-owned business owners and representatives to the conversation sooner,” Banks told Invest:. “When government changes are being presented, historically speaking the leaders and politicians would look at the voters and individuals and ask what is best for them without necessarily consulting the business community — and more specifically the minority-owned business community — and asking how they will be impacted. We are being brought to the table more frequently now and are involved in a lot more conversations and having our suggestions solicited, which doesn’t just benefit us but also benefits commerce for the region as a whole. It is instrumental in what the region is looking to accomplish.”
Michael Banks, President & CEO, African-American Chamber of Commerce of PA/NJ/DE.
This communication between businesses and government not only fosters a good relationship but also facilitates a conversation about what is best for the city from each stakeholder’s point of view. The top 29 minority-owned businesses brought in roughly $183 million in 2017 alone. With minority-owned businesses growing rapidly in Philadelphia, these entrepreneurs are an integral part of the city’s economy.
“There is a lot of energy around the discussion of problems and challenges but not the same amount of energy being put into discussions around solutions and opportunity,” Banks said. “People know the data, and they understand the problems, but the energy put into solving them isn’t equal. We know the poverty rate is 26 percent, but what are we doing differently? Innovation needs to be looked at as a verb not a noun. By fostering small businesses and encouraging discourse with minority-owned businesses, bringing these people into the conversation, we can help achieve the goals we have both socially and economically as a city.”
Philadelphia might be known for its “Brotherly Love,” but strengthening the economy and bridging the poverty gap is incumbent upon creating a productive dialogue between all stakeholders of all backgrounds — citizens, government and business-owners alike.
For more information on our interviewees, visit their websites:
Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce: http://www.philahispanicchamber.org/
African American Chamber of Commerce PA/NJ/DE: https://aachamber.com/