WASHINGTON – African Americans own about one of eight businesses in Maryland, the highest percentage among the nation’s 50 states, according to the Census Bureau.
African Americans owned 47,600 of Maryland’s 400,000 non-farm businesses in 1997, or about 12 percent, well above the national average of 4 percent. The report is based on a sample survey of minority businesses tracked every five years.
Only Washington, D.C., had a higher percentage of black-owned businesses, at 24 percent of the city’s total, according to the report. Mississippi trailed Maryland, with African Americans owning 10.5 percent of that state’s businesses.
Virginia was ranked sixth among states, at 7 percent.
Kenneth Simonson, a senior economic advisor for the Small Business Administration, said he’s not surprised that Maryland tops the list. Blacks have lived in the state since the beginning, he said, and now make up 28 percent of Maryland’s population.
While blacks own about 12 percent of Maryland’s businesses, those firms only account for about 1.4 percent of total business receipts in the state. Nationally, only 11 percent of black-owned businesses had paid employees, and only about 1 percent had annual sales of $1 million or more.
Petey Green, a black businessman in Prince George’s County, said he believes many of Maryland’s African American businesses reflect that national model of small operations with no extra employees.
Green said he is sure a good chunk of those businesses are in Prince George’s County — so sure that he is helping launch the Black Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce to cater to those businesspeople.
He notes that more than six of 10 county residents are black. A good economy, and the county’s image as the nation’s most affluent African American suburb have also drawn people from Washington and from all over the country.
“If you are an African American living in Iowa, that has to be an attraction,” Green said.
Green, who is president of a management consulting firm, said a number of African Americans who once worked for the federal government have retired and started consulting businesses based in Prince George’s County.
He said the black chamber, based in Fort Washington, hopes to provide seminars on finances and business plans to help these small black entrepreneurs grow. He said the chamber has mailed packets to about 400 businesses in the county.
The goal is to have more of those local businesses ready to take advantage of two multibillion-dollar projects — construction of a new Wilson Bridge and the National Harbor, which would bring entertainment, hotel and residential development to the Potomac River waterfront in Oxon Hill.
The Census Bureau this week also released data that showed Hispanics own 11,200 of Maryland’s businesses, or about 2.8 percent. That is lower than the national average of 5.8 percent, but Maryland has a relatively small Hispanic population.
Census officials said it is difficult to compare the 1992-97 study of minority-owned businesses to earlier studies because the bureau changed the way it recognizes minority-owned businesses. Census spokeswoman Valerie Strang said the new formula requires that African Americans have a controlling interest in a company for it to be designated a minority-owned business.