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Overview: thriving under pressure.

It was not a year likely to be forgotten. Book-ended by staggering events--the war in the Persian Gulf and the disintegration of the Soviet Union--what 1991 may most be remembered for is the unrelenting economic strife here at home, resulting in the longest and most devastating recession in almost a decade.

Unlike the recession of the early 1980s, however, this one was felt by everybody, from the assembly line worker at General Motors to the Ivy League MBA on Wall Street. At best, according to several CEOs of the nation's largest black businesses, 1991 was a challenge, a struggle, the ultimate test of their companies' flexibility and stamina.

The new economic realities of 1991--the demand for flawless products and services, the growing reliance on emerging companies for economic growth and the availability of thousands of experienced, results-oriented managers pushed into occupational free fall by downsized corporations--has created an outlook of rugged opportunism for black entrepreneurs. They know that the bottom line is survival--and to survive, thei companies must compete more fiercely than ever for business opportunities.

BLACK ENTERPRISE's milestone 20th Annual Report on Black Business reveals that the nation's largest black-owned businesses have adjusted to these realities and surged forward, with more companies emerging in new areas and with improved performance overall. Take Metters Industries Inc., a $26.8 million systems engineering concern, for example. CEO Samuel Metters says the key to his McLean, Va.-based company's 58.2% increase in revenues in 1991 was its anticipation of the recession and defense cutbacks long before they struck. Following his personal survival strategy, "Plan for the worst, look for the best," Metters sought out recession-proof opportunities, creating a new division within his company that maintains records on waste management for several government agencies.

Most of the nation's largest black-owned companies and automobile dealerships spent the year cutting back where possible. The total staff for the 1992 BE 100s, the nation's 100 largest black-owned industrial/service companies and 100 largest black-owned automobile dealerships, increased by only 2.5%, from 37,778 to 38,723. The collective gross revenues of the BE 100s totaled $7.9 billion, a 10.4% increase over last year and the largest increase since BE began tracking separate lists in 1988. Meanwhile, gross sales for the nation's largest industrial corporations fell by 1.8% last year.

Slimmed Down, Toughened Up

Apparently, the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100's aggressive efforts to slim down and toughen up in 1991 were effective: Total 1991 sales for the nation's largest black-owned industrial/service companies were up 10.6% over the previous year, to nearly $5 billion, while total employee numbers increased by only 3.9%, to 32,590.

The performance of American Development Corp. (ADC), a $25 million, sheet-metal manufacturing operation, is consistent with those trends. CEO W. Melvin Brown Jr. attributes his North Charleston, S.C., company's 68.7% increase in revenues to a two-year, $25 million contract to build postal carts for the U.S. Postal Service and to the $1 million he invested in robots to build them--enabling ADC to trim about 40 jobs. Not surprisingly, ADC is this year's sales growth leader among the largest black-owned industrial/service concerns. The company is ranked No. 50 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list.

The chief executives of long-established companies are aggressively seeking new synergisms in their search for growth and expansion, while entrepreneurs of more recent vintage are acquiring undervalued businesses and reaping profits in technology-based industries that would have been impractical as recently as 15 years ago. Both types of businesspeople are represented in this year's choices for BE Company of the Year.

Charleston, W. Va.-based C.H. James & Co., No. 72 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 with 1991 sales of $18 million, is a company born in the 19th century. However, CEO Charles H. James III, the fourth generation of the James family to lead the 109-year-old, poultry and grocery products concern, is aggressively leading the company into the 21st century. The 33-year-old Wharton MBA plans to achieve this by expanding the company's marketplace nationally and pursuing strategic alliances with other flood industry concerns. (See "109 Years Old And Still Going Strong," this issue.)

Meanwhile, Don H. Barden, 48, has built Barden Communications Inc. into multimillion-dollar company by parlaying real estate investments into ownership of the nation's largest black-owned cable franchise. Barden Communications, an 11-year-old company on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 for the second year, ranks No. 5 with $91.2 million in 1991 revenues. The Detroit-based company posted 6% sales growth in a year when both the real estate and communications markets were battered by the recession. (See "Wired For Success," this issue.)

Despite the differences in these companies and their respective CEO's, both James and Barden face the same challenge: to reshape their businesses to thrive in the 1990s.

Proven Winners And New Players

The largest of the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 companies continued to anchor the list by delivering solid performances in 1991. Only one of the top 10 and two of the top 20 companies on the list reported decreases in annual sales: Chicago-based Soft Sheen Products Inc., the hair care company, reported a 4.6% drop to $87.9 million, and Trans Jones Inc./Jones Transfer Co., the Monroe, Mich.-based transportation services company, had a 18.4% slide to $61.2 million.

New York-based TLC Beatrice International Holdings Inc., comprised of food-processing and distribution concerns concentrated primarily in Western
 THE 1992 BLACK ENTERPRISE 100s
 PERCENT
 1990 1991 DIFFERENCE CHANGE
TOTAL SALES (*) $7,169.025 $7,911.192 $742.167 10.4%
TOTAL STAFF 37,778 38,723 945 2.5%
 1992 B.E. INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100
TOTAL SALES (*) $4,517.894 $4,996.809 $478.915 10.6%
TOTAL STAFF 31,351 32,590 1,239 3.9%
 1992 B.E. AUTO 100
TOTAL SALES (*) $2,651.131 $2,914.383 $263.252 9.9%
TOTAL STAFF 6,427 6,133 -294 -4.6%


(*) In millions of dollars, to the nearest thousand. Prepared by BE Research. Reviewed by Mitchell/Titus & Co.

Europe, remains No. 1 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 for the fifth consecutive year. The company reported an increase in revenues of 3.1% to $1.5 billion, along with increases in income and capital spending for 1991. In his company's annual report, TLC Beatrice CEO Reginald F. Lewis saye these results were achieved "despite lower growth rates and higher unemployment in France, and [despite] the strengthening of the U.S. dollar against European currencies, in contrast to 1990 reported results which benefited from a weaker U.S. dollar."

Meanwhile, Johnson Publishing Co. Inc., the Chicago-based publishing, broadcasting and personal-grooming products concern, retained its No. 2 spot on the list, with a 3.6% sales increase to $261.4 million in 1991. Johnson Publishing CEO John H. Johnson also hired an additional 328 employees in 1991. According to Johnson, the increase in staff was largely due to a national expansion of the company's Fashion Fair Cosmetics retail outlets.

The collective boost in gross revenues generated by the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 in 1991 was buoyed by the introduction or return of 21 companies to the list. Total sales for the 1992 BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 "freshman" class amounted to $672.8 million, while the combined gross revenues of those companies on the 1991 list that were displaced was $290.1 million. Thus, turnover on the list resulted in a net sales gain of $382.7 million. Companies are displaced from the BE 100s when they are no longer at least 51% black-owned or are no longer among the nation's 100 largest black-owned industrial/service concerns or 100 largest black-owned automobile dealerships as measured by annual gross revenues. (See sidebar, "Eligibility For The BE 100s.")

The largest of the newcomers to the BE 100s is Marlton, N.J.-based RMS Technologies Inc., a computer and technical services company, which debuts

[TABULAR DATA OMITTED]

in the top 10 on the industrial/service list which 1991 revenues of $79.9 million. (See "The Freshman Class of 1992," this issue.)

CEOs Oscar Robertson and Earl G. Graves join an elite group of black entrepreneurs who lead more than one BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 company. Robertson, the former NBA great and CEO of the Cincinnati-based chemical company Orchem Inc. (No. 40 on the list), also heads Herrin, Ill.-based Orpack-Stone Corp., a corrugated container manufacturing company debuting at No. 58 on this year's list, with 1991 revenues of $21 million. Graves is the CEO of New York-based Earl G. Graves Ltd. a business-information services and publishing operation ranked No. 73 on this year's industrial/service list, with 1991 revenues of $17.5 million. Graves is also CEO of Pepsi-Cola of Washington, D.C. L.P. Purchased in 1990 in partnership with former NBA great Earvin "Magic" Johnson, the Washington, D.C.-based soft-drink distributorship debuts at No. 19 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list, with revenues of $44.1 million.

Other notable newcomers include New York-based Rush Communications, led by hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons (No. 32 with sales of $34 million) and Washington, D.C.-based Black Entertainment Television (BET) Holdings Inc. (No. 15 with $50.8 million). In October, BET Holdings, the parent company of Black Entertainment Television and Emerge and YSB (Young Sisters & Brothers) magazines, became the first black-owned company ever to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange (see Cover Story, "Black Businesses Woo Hungry Investors," May 1992).

Spinning Their Wheels

For many U.S. auto dealers, 1991 was no less brutal than previous years. Despite furiously revving up their sales-force engines, most dealerships found themselves spinning their wheels, unable to gain traction aghainst lagging consumer confidence. Although total 1991 sales for the nation's largest black-owned auto dealearships exceeded 1990 sales by 9.9%, rising to $2.9 billion, 40 of the dealerships represented on this year's BE AUTO 100 list posted lower sales, and 17 dealerships reported gross revenues that dipped by more than 10%. The increase in overall sales for the BE AUTO 100 is quite remarkable given the anemic market and the wariness of car buyers that characterized 1991. However, in order to squeeze out profits, dealerships continued to do more with less: The BE AUTO 100 employed 6,133 people in 1991, a 4.6% decrease from last year.

Many of the companies on the BE AUTO 100 are multiple dealerships. Several were forced to close or sell showrooms in an effort to improve their bottom lines. For example, Long Beach, Calif.-based Shack-Woods & Associates, returned to the No. 1 spot on the list after being displaced for the first time ever last year. The company shut down one dealership and sold another, leaving it with seven. And last year's top concern, the Baranco Automotive Group of Decatur, Ga., also sold off one of its dealerships, Acura of Tallahassee, Fla., in order to concentrate its holdings in the Atlanta area. Baranco's sales fell 13.9% in 1991 to $163.9 million; it dropped to No. 3 on

[TABULAR DATA OMITTED]

the list this year. CEO Gregory T. Baranco says it could have been worse: "Had I not consolidated, it would've been impossible to survive. In years like that, you do what you have to do because you know the important thing is to make it through."

Given Baranco's losses, his assessment of 1991 as "a year I would not want to experience again" is readily understandable. But even some of those who did extraordinarily well in sales last year s eem a bit shell shocked. Take Shack-Woods, for example. After a one-year dip to the No. 3 position on the BE AUTO 100, gross revenues of $287 million for 1991 catapulted Shack-Woods back into the top spot on the list. Shack-Woods' phenomena sales increase of 149.8% in 1991 also earned it the honor of being the only auto dealership ever to take the top spot among the BE 100s Top 10 Growth Leaders.

And yet, there is no hint of rejoicing in Shack-Woods Controller Marvin Johnson's tone when he recalls last year. There is only realied that it's over. "1991 was worse than 1990," says Johnson. "1990 clearly showed that we were in for tough times. But we were optimistic that it was going to be a short battle. And what happened in 1991 was, literally, the war."

Early in 1991, Shack-Woods closed its flagship operation, Queen City Ford in Long Beach, although the mega-dealership is still headquartered there. In April, the Pasadena Lincoln-Mercury dealership was sold back to Ford (and subsequently resold to another African-American buyer). The 15-year-old mega-dealership's auto sales were showing phenomenal growth mainly due to fleet business, says Johnson, including a significant contract with Hertz Rent-A-Car Co. Fleet sales also helped drive Austin, Texas-based Pavilion Lincoln-Mercury Inc. Pavilion remains in the No. 2 slot on the BE AUTO 100 for the second consecutive year, with gross revenues of $199.2 million in 1991.

Shack-Woods tightened its purse strings and nearly 100 jobs were lost. "It was a struggle," says Johnson, summing up the year. "We were forced to do a lot of painful things in that struggle. But we made it. We're lean now and we're optimistic. We're moving forward as if it's the good old days."

One dealership that seems never to have strayed far from those good old days is this year's BE Auto Dealer Of The Year, Mel Farr, CEO of Oak Park, Mich.-based Mel Farr Automotive Group. Holding fast at No. 5 on the list, Farr's sales increase of 25.8% (for total gross revenues of $106 million) may seem modest compared to the 61.7% increase his dealerships delivered in 1990. However, factor into the equation that Farr and his 240 employees sell Fords

[TABULAR DATA OMITTED]

and Toyotas the old-fashioned way -- dealer-to-buyer, eye-to-eye, one at a time -- and his numbers are impressive indeed. (See "Mr. Touchdown," this issue.) Farr's formular for success is as fundamental as they come: "If you sell cars, you make money. You cannot afford to let anyone walk through the door of your showroom without making every effort to sell them a car."

Midfield (Ala.) Dodge Inc. CEO Jordan A. Frazier is another believer in the notion that "back-to-basics" salesmanship, as he calls it, will win out in good times and bad. Certainly for his dealership, which opened its doors in 1989, just as the economy was beginning to downshift, such traditional notions have held true.

Premiering on the 1991 BE AUTO 100 list at No. 94 with $12 million in sales, this year Frazier's dealership leaped to No. 63 with $15.8 million in sales, a 31.3% increase since last year. As times got tougher, Frazier says he invested in training his 38 employees in the fine art of the soft touch, even sending them to "telephone school" to refine their telecommunications skills. Frazier himself pressed the flesh at community meetings and church socials. The result? "We've been selling church vans right and left." says the spirited CEO.

Of the Big Three car manufacturers, Ford continues to dominate the BE AUTO 100 with 53%, followed by General Motors (30%) and Chrysler (22%). Not surprisingly, black-owned Ford dealerships also generated the highest percentage of sales dollars: $1.1 billion, or 39% of the auto list's 1991 gross revenues. Fifteen percent of the BE AUTO 100 sell foreign cars through their dealerships; last year 16% sold imports.

There are 20 new dealerships on the BE AUTO 100 this year, fewer than last year's freshman class of 24. Sales for this year's newcomers totaled $318.4 million, while the combined revenues of the 1991 BE AUTO 100 concerns that did not make this year's list was $316 million. Thus, turnover produced a net sales increase of $2.4 million.

The Global Front

Several BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 companies continue to explore business opportunities on the global front. For example, Stephens Engineering Co. Inc., one of five industrial/service concerns among the BE 100s Top 10 Growth Leaders (see chart), jumped from No. 76 to No. 61 on the industrial/service list, thanks to gross revenues of $20 million, a 66.7% increase over its 1990 performance. The Lanham, Md.-based company, which specializes in computer maintenance and systems integration, opened an office in Germany and Kuwait in 1991.

Although Stephens Engineering CEO Wallace O. Stephens concedes that his foray into Kuwait was, in his own words, "kind of a crap shoot," it has paid off. "With all of the devastation in Kuwait," he explains, "I knew there would be opportunities." And there were. His company's first major Kuwaiti project included refurbishing all of the computers at the country's American school, as well as those at the American Embassy. Stephens plans to open an office in Japan this year and is considering opening another in the Commonwealth of Sovereign States (formerly the Soviet Union) in 1993.

Thomas A. Farrington, president of a similar company, Input Output Computer Services Inc. (IOCS), also credits his international aggressiveness--part of a growth strategy initiated four years ago--with boosting company sales to $30 million, a 42.9% increase from the previous year's sales of $21 million. When IOCS, b ased in Waltham, Mass., no longer qualified for federal set-asides, Farrington decided to look outside the federal marketplace--way outside. His soliciting led him as far as Africa, where IOCS, No. 37 on this year's industrial/service list, has secured several profitable long-term contracts over the last few years.

The performances of Stephens Engineering and IOCS are typical of the strong representation of BE 100s companies in the computer and other hi-tech industries. These companies comprised an impressive 23% of the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 and nearly every company reported an increase in revenues for 1991. A notable exception: Integrated Systems Analysts Inc. (ISA). Ranked No. 34 on this year's industrial/service list, the Arlington, Va.-based engineering and technical support firm headed by C. Michael Gooden, had a 20.2% drop in revenues to $33.5 million. However, ISA's January acquisition of Ketterman's Inc. (an $8 million, Dallas-based computer maintenance concern) and the assets of Centel Information Systems (a subsidiary of Centel Corp.), is expected to add $19 million in revenues to ISA's coffers this year. (See "ISA Acquires Firm, Assets," In The News, May 1992.)

ISA was not the only BE 100s company in an acquisitive mood last year. In June 1991, Fletcher E. Allen CEO of Viking Enterprises Corp., a Chicago-based printing firm ranked No. 71 on the 1992 BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 with revenues of $18.5 million, teamed up with business partners Jeffrey Palmer and Kelvin Pennington to purchase white-owned TAS Graphic Communications Inc., a diversified commercial printer with a staff of 1990 that posted $23 million in 1990 sales. The three men, who also own another printing concern, Chicago-based Pennington Ventures Inc., and are majority partners in Viking, did not disclose the purchase price of TAS Graphics.

Hair care products companies on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 came through 1991 with mixed results. For example, Johnson Products Co. Inc. (JPC), a company that made a terrific comeback under CEO Eric G. Johnson after suffering steady losses in the mid-'80s, rocked the business world in March when Johnson suddenly resigned.

There has been speculation that management tensions were on the rise since May 1991, when Johnson unsuccessfully attempted to take the company private (JPC has been traded on the American Stock Exchange since 1971). JPC Chairperson Joan B. Johnson has replaced her son with four executives, including her daughter, Joan M. Johnson. (See "Johnson Products Co. Regroups After Family Row," In The News, May 1992.)

Despite the turmoil at JPC, the company logged the most substantial rise in revenues of any BE 100s hair care concern. In Eric Johnson's last year at the helm, its sales advanced 29.4% to $44 million. JPC is ranked at No. 20 on the 1992 industrial/service list.

Meanwhile, Atlanta-based Bronner Brothers, ranked No. 67, was the only other hair care concern on the 1991 industrial serviced list to report a revenue increase--4.4% to $19 million. Dallas-based Pro-Line Corp., No. 33 on the 1992 industrial/service list, reported a 4.5% decrease to $33.8 million. These companies are joined by Chicago-based Luster Products Co., No. 20 on this year's list with sales of $44 million.

Gone, But Not Forgotten

There are, of course, several companies which, for all their, are no longer on the BE 100s. Missing from this year's industrial/service list is Emeryville, Calif.-based TEM Associates Inc. The "11-year-old computer company (No. 70 on the 1991 list), which specialized in new system development, filed for bankruptcy protection in May 1991. Despite the setback, CEO Berah D. McSwain is optimistic about his company's future. "The worst of the recession for us was in early 1991," says McSwain. Since then he and his reduced staff have been working hard to rebuild TEM's client base and team up with other companies on joint-venture projects.

Also absent from this year's list is Harahan, Le.-based Crescent Distributing Co. Inc., which grew, under the leadership of President Stanley S. Scott, into one of the nation's largest beer distributorships. Crescent ranked No. 16 on last year's BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list, with sales of $45.3 million. Last August, Scott, who was losing a battle with cancer, decided to sell the distributorship back to Miller Brewing Co. Miller has assumed management of the operation. Meanwhile, Scott succumbed to his illness in April (see "Stan Scott Remembered," In The News, this issue).

Roxbury, Mass.-based Jet-A-Way inc., No. 90 on last year's industrial/service list, suffered on several levels in 1991. The waste-removal company, founded with one dump truct in 1969 by President Eddie Jeter Jr., had grown to post-1990 sales of $10 million. But for most of 1991, Jet-A-Way struggled against the downturn in the construction industry, which had a crippling effect on its sales. Then, in September, Jeter died, leaving the business in the hands of his wife, Darlene, and two of their five sons. Marketing Manager Jesse Jeter, who says the company is now focusing more on recycling as a way to boost sales, vows that Jet-A-Way will return to the BE 100s.

Under "E" for endangered species of the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100: black-owned advertising agencies. Plagued by a recession-driven slump in advertising and a wavering commitment on the part of white-owned companies to use black-owned agencies to reach African-American consumers, the agencies on last year's industrial/service list were unable to generate sales growth comparable to other industry categories represented on the list. Of the three black-owned advertising firms on the 1991 list, only Chicago-based Burrell Communications Group, which hung on at No. 100 with 1991 revenues of $10.5 million (a 1.6% decline), remains. New York firms, The Mingo Group and Uniworld Group Inc., failed to make this year's cutoff.

However, don't be too quick to write off black-owned advertising firms. They wouldn't to the first industry to be pushed off the BE 100s, only to return with phoenixlike vengeance to the list. For example, oil and fuel companies on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list were declared extinct in BE's 18th annual report, after the last such concern, Boston-based Grimes Oil Co. Inc., filed for bankruptcy protection and failed to make the list for two consecutive years.

Ultimately, however, Grimes Oil survived, foregoing bankruptcy, and has reappeared on this year's list at No. 26 with sales of $36 million. And the 52-year-old company is not along in the oil and fuel industry category: Houston-based Gold Line Refining Ltd., an oil refining concern, debuts at No. 28 on this year's industrial/service list, with sales of $35.7 million.

In all, 41 companies on the 1991 BE 100s lists, including 21 industrial/service concerns and 20 auto dealerships, failed to make this year's lists. But, for the most part, companies forced off the BE 100s lists were replaced by bigger, more productive concerns. In a year brought many of the mightiest to their knees--note the fall of Pan American World Airways, the neardemise of R.H. Macy & Co. Inc. and the retrenchment of General Motors Corp. and IBM Corp.--the determination and resiliency exhibited by the BE 100s is remarkable.

Shaken, But Intact

The nearly two-year slump in advertising has affected the BE 100s media businesses to varying degrees, but for the most part, the impact appears to have been minimal. Of the broadcasting and publishing companies represented on this year's list, only those with network television affiliates, New York-based Queen City Broadcasting Inc. (No. 48 on this year's list with revenues of $25.2 million) and New York-based Granite Broadcasting Corp. (No. 24, with revenues of nearly $40 million), reported sales declines, of 3% and 6.1% respectively.

Granite CEO W. Don Cornwell says his company, with affiliates in San Jose, Calif., Fort Wayne, Ind.; Duluth, Minn.; and Peoria/Bloomington, Ill., was hardest hit by major cutbacks in political advertising and business from local auto dealers. In 1990 Granite obtained $1.7 million worth of political advertisements. That fell to $80,000 in 1991. Business generated from local auto dealerships dropped 22% "and there just wasn't enough advertising growth in other areas to make up for it," explains Cornwell.

Cornwell is counting on the advertising slump to end soon, and with the presidential elections heating up, he may be right. Convincing the investment community of that assessment was key to his completing a $24 million initial public offering of his company's stock on the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation exchange in January. Granite joins JPC and BET Holdings as the only publicly held companies on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100.

The other notable media-business deal completed by a BE 100s company last year was in radio. In October, New York-based NBN Broadcasting Inc. (No. 74 on last year's industrial/service list) joined forces with the Sheridan Broadcasting Network Inc. to form the American Urban Radio Networks, the nation's largest black-owned radio network. Former Sheridan chairman Ronald R. Davenport and former NBN chairman Sydney L. Small will share chairmanship duties for the company, which is No. 83 on the 1992 BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 with revenues of $14 million.

The 1992 BE 100s construction companies swam against the tide all last year. Interestingly, some of the smaller construction concerns on the list fared better at boosting sales than the big boys. For example, Gary, Ind.-based Powers & Sons Construction Co. Inc., (No. 57 on the industrial/service list), posted the largest sales increase of all the construction concerns on this year's list. Powers 49.8% sales increase boosted its total gross revenues to $21.7 million. By contrast, two of the three largest BE 100s construction concerns--The Thacker Organization of Decatur, Ga. (No. 36, 1991 sales of $30.8 million) and Atlanta-based Williams-Russell and Johnson Inc. (No. 95, $11.3 million)--suffered double-digit sales decreases. (For more on Thacker, see "Anatomy Of A Comeback," this issue). H.J. Russell & Co., which has remained the largest construction concern on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 for the 20-year history of the list, held steady at No.4 with sales of $143.6 million, an increase of only .2%

Retail food and beverage concerns, thought by many observers to be recession-resistant, generally did well. Most of the BE 100s companies in this category reported increased sales. But the fact that both Chicago-based Brooks Sausage Co. Inc. and Baltimore-based Parks Sausage Co. experienced slight drops in sales last year may give pause to the food-industry faithful.

"The theory is that people have to eat," notes Parks Sausage CEO Raymond V. Haysbert Sr. "But they can eat less and they can eat [less expensively]." Harsbert, whose company landed at No. 49 on the list this year after posting an almost 4% drop in revenues, says that less-expensive Parks products, such as its chicken sausage, did quite well in 1991. Still, Harsbert rejects the notion that his sloping sales may say more about changing eating habits than the economy. "If we slapped the same price on the chicken sausage as we do on the pork and the beef," says Haysbert, "people would turn away from that too."

Only now are owners of the nation's largest black-owned companies beginning to feel a shift in the wind. Finally, the worst appears to be over and African-American business leaders are optimistic as they position their companies to be primary participants in the county's economic recovery. Almost without exception, the BE 100s CEOs interviewed for this year's annual report expressed relief that 1991 was over. But they also expressed tremendous enthusiasm for better results in 1992.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:The B.E. 100s
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Jun 1, 1992
Words:4798
Previous Article:Computer accessories.
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