Are there any Black people in Phoenix? If one was to survey the magazine covers on the newsstand or attend a Thursday night performance at Herberger, one might not think so. This lack of visibility in a city, where it tends to be “personal” not “business,” has had serious impacts on Black-owned businesses and businesspeople. The Greater Phoenix Black Chamber (GPBCC) was established in 1998 to raise the credibility, visibility and viability of Black businesses. On July 24, sixteen years later, GPBCC gathered other Black-themed organizations together in a show of solidarity as Black Phoenix United.
While still lagging behind white income, nationally, African-American annual income was increasing dramatically during the 1990’s. But due to the recession, and traditions like “last hired, first fired,” by 2011, the average annual income of $35,000 dropped to 46% of African-American households from almost $58,000 a decade earlier. In Arizona, African-Americans comprise less than 5% of the population.
On the positive side, almost 90% are high school graduates or greater, and 32% are in management, business, science, and arts occupations. On the negative side, 24% are in service occupations, and almost 20% in government, which were hard hit during the economic downturn. Blacks were over 13% of the unemployed civilian labor force in Arizona in 2012. For African-American businesses, which historically had little access to financing, the recession was especially devastating. Only 3% of African-Americans in Arizona were self-employed in 2012.
GPBCC has promoted five pillars (advocacy, access to capital, contracting, entrepreneurial training, and business development) to help Black businesses grow. United Black Phoenix takes the campaign to a new level. The coalition includes organizations such as the Arizona Black Bar, 100 Black Men, the Greater Phoenix Urban League, the Black MBA Association, National Sales Network, and Arizona Association of Black Real Estate Brokers.
Kerwin Brown, CEO of the Black Chamber, repeated the theme of Black Phoenix United: “Collectively we will influence the economic development of the entire State of Arizona.”
Over 200 entrepreneurs and corporate businesspeople, from all types of businesses, learned about each other and their strengths at the event hosted by Edward Jones in Tempe, Arizona. If the din and energy in the room were any indication, Black Phoenix United will become a formidable economic engine in, and advocate for, the economic recovery, not just of Black business, but for all businesses in the State.