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A world of opportunity.

Not so long ago, doing business internationally was the exclusive domain of the largest and most aggressive multinational corporations. For African American enterprises, doing business nationally--outside the immediate neighborhood, municipality or region was impressive in and of itself. Large-scale business in international markets was simply beyond the reach of even the most aggressive black entrepreneur.

Much of this has changed, particularly during the past decade. Countries from Eastern Europe to Southern Africa are now embracing capitalism as the key to their economic futures. And more black-owned companies, like much of American business, have discovered that to grow, they must seek opportunities beyond our nation's shores. This reality was a primary consideration in my participation in Egoli Beverages LP, which owns New Age Beverages Ltd., a Pepsi-Cola bottling franchise, in partnership with black South Africans.

Indeed, African American businesses, from BE 100s companies such as TLC Beatrice International Holdings to the growing number of individual black entrepreneurs in import/export, have established a global presence. However, this reality presents a stark contrast to the most recent numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau measuring the growth and impact of black-owned businesses. While the Census acknowledges the rapid growth in the number of our businesses (46%, from 422,1155 in 1987 to 620,912 in 1992), because of a gap in its surveying procedures, it severely distorts and underestimates the economic impact of black-owned enterprises, in terms of both sales and employment. For example, according to the Census, in 1992 black firms averaged only $52,000 in sales (with only 0.5% of them making more than $1 million) and nearly 92% of black businesses had no employees.

This is because the Census counts only individual proprietorships, partnerships and Subchapter S Corporations, while excluding other legal forms of business organization, including Subchapter C Corporations. Because many of the nation's largest black companies are organized under Subchapter C, they are thus excluded from the Census count. A subsequent study of minority businesses conducted by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington (in conjunction with BLACK ENTERPRISE and the National Minority Supplier Development Council) showed that more than half of black-owned firms (including Subchapter C Corporations) made more than $1 million in 1993, while 78% employed at least 5 people and 22% employed at least 50.

As I have often said, African American business is not a sideshow, but part of the main event--even on the international stage. We have a far greater economic impact than Census figures would indicate. We must not similarly underestimate ourselves, but rather extend our entrepreneurial reach throughout a world of economic opportunity.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Publisher's Page; African American business enterprises
Author:Graves, Earl G.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Column
Date:May 1, 1996
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