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Pittsburgh’s Not the Place: New Study Ranks Cities Where Black Businesses are Flourishing and Where They are Not

More Black people are turning to entrepreneurship, as Black-owned businesses are growing across the country. But there are certain regions that are more Black-business friendly than others.

Blacks represent almost 13 percent of the U.S. population, but only 2.4 percent of American businesses are run by Black owners, according to a recent LendingTree study.

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

The South had the top 10 areas with the highest percentages of Black-owned businesses, with larger Black populations ranging from 48 percent in Memphis, Tennessee, to 18 percent in St. Louis, Missouri. Alternatively, the 10 areas with the least number of Black-owned businesses also had the smaller Black populations where Blacks made up less than 10 percent of the general population, with the exception of Milwaukee, Wisconsin at 16 percent. The study created the rankings after analyzing U.S. Census Bureau data.

The metropolitan area with the lowest percentage of Black-owned businesses, at 1 percent, was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, while Fayetteville, North Carolina, topped the list with the most at 11.2 percent.

Denver was ranked as one of the 10 U.S. metropolitan areas with the lowest percentage of Black-owned businesses. The city came in at number six on that bottom 10, tied with Boston.

Out of almost 70,000 businesses in the Denver area, only 999, or 1.4 percent, are Black-owned. The study adds that about 6 percent of the Denver metropolitan area’s population identifies as Black.

“I’m very disappointed with the access to capital here in the city, especially a city that has a great deal of diversity,” Jesse Brown, owner of Denver’s Wah Gwaan Brewing Company, told U.S. News & World Report. Brown, a Denver native and U.S. Marine, co-owns the company with Harsha Maragh.

“Getting funding for our brewery was a huge hurdle, and it still is,” said Maragh, a first-generation Jamaican-American. The brewery’s name, “wah gwaan,” is Jamaican Patois for “what’s up?”

Access to capital is a problem many non-white business owners in Denver face, not just Black entrepreneurs, according to Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce executive director Lee Gash-Maxey.

“Black, brown, Asian businesses – everybody needs more capital to run their businesses,” she told U.S.News & World Report. “Any programs that help increase the capital for small Black businesses, we should take a look at.”

There are two initiatives spearheaded by CBCC to increase funding opportunities for Black entrepreneurs. A partnership with Colorado Enterprise Fund, a nonprofit lending institution, established a specific Black business loan fund geared toward Black-owned small businesses. A second partnership with the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business has created the “Building Success” program, a six-session training program that helps participants learn about business models, marketing, financial management and more.

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