Left picture: From left to right: Gordon Eric Knowles, president/CEO, Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce; Shavon Brown-Robinson, editor in chief, BOSSY Magazine; and Vice Mayor Brian C. Johnson, City of West Park were panelists at “Are Black Consumers The Real Problem.” Right picture: Representatives from The Credit Group attended the community forum.



Special to South Florida Times

OPA-LOCKA, Fla. – The buying power of African American consumers has reached more than a trillion dollars, and many residents are looking for ways to keep some of those dollars local in an effort to help support black businesses right here in South Florida.

During a recent forum held by the South Florida Black Business Directory (SFLBBD), titled “Are Black Consumers The Real Problem,” nearly 60 individuals gathered at New Life In The City in Opa-locka to participate in an in-depth discussion on black consumer trends, establishing business opportunities and ways to move forward economically.

Outreach representatives from several community partners, including Miami-Dade County Public Schools Office of Economic Opportunity, Broward County Public Schools Minority/Women Business Enterprise and The Credit Group were also onsite at the event to provide assistance with registering businesses and to share important information on available resources.

“It’s important that when we talk about establishing and maintaining black businesses, we take into account all perspectives and that no idea is left out,” said Crystal Chanel, co-founder of SFLBBD. “Our goal for this event was to ensure that every opinion was heard so that we can collaborate and come up with solutions that will help grow and expand black businesses not only in the Miami area, but around the nation as well.”

According to a recent report released by the Selig Center for Economic Growth, African American buying power was estimated at $1.2 trillion in 2016 and is expected to grow to $1.5 trillion by 2021, making it the largest racial minority consumer market.

The report also noted that black buying power increased 98 percent from 2000 to 2016 and will comprise 8.8 percent of the nation’s total buying power in 2021.

Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Gordon Eric Knowles, who served as a guest panelist at the forum, said although black spending power has continued to increase over the years, much more emphasis needs to be made by African Americans to help create and establish wealth for those within their very own community.

“Black businesses have been, and will always be, one of our nation’s greatest assets.

However, we can’t expect our people to prosper economically if we don’t support them,” said Knowles. “Over the course of history, we became comfortable with just being the average black consumer, but now is the time for us to change the narrative and to start evaluating how we – as a people – are spending our money and what direct impacts it is having on our very own black establishments.”

The latest survey by the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy estimated that there are more than 2.6 million blackowned businesses, representing roughly 10 percent of the total number of businesses throughout the nation. Approximately 1.5 million businesses are owned by black women and that number is expected to rise.

The ability to raise capital also plays an important role when looking to launch or expand a business, and studies have shown that minority groups are less likely to use a business loan and more likely to use personal financing, such as family savings, credit cards and personal assets to help start or grow a business.

A Census survey also revealed that only 16 percent of non-minorities felt discouraged from seeking a loan, while almost 30 percent of minorities – which includes African Americans – felt the same way.

“Local municipalities and government agencies absolutely have a role to play when it comes to supporting entrepreneurs and minority-owned businesses financially,” said City of West Park Vice Mayor Brian C. Johnson, who also serves as the president and CEO of Minority Builders Coalition Inc. “If we want to turn individual gains into collaborative prosperity here in South Florida, we can’t solely rely on black consumers. It is going to take a collective effort to make sure that we are continuing to advocate of behalf of black-owned business, no matter how big or how small.”