Philadelphia Tribune – Minority-owned businesses are big economic drivers

Minority-owned businesses are big economic drivers

Feb. 24, 2018
by Malik Majeed

On Feb. 8, like many of my fellow Philadelphians, I attended the Super Bowl victory parade. I stood next to thousands of screaming fans and I beamed with pride with celebrating our beloved Eagles. It made me realize just what we can accomplish when we focus. However, it also made me realize how much we have to do to become a first-class city. A rising tide does indeed lift all boats, and this is as good a time as any to harness that energy into actions that benefit everyone, especially those who need it the most.

Although Philadelphia is a majority-minority city, Philadelphia consistently lags far behind other major U.S. cities in terms of its number of minority owned businesses. Pennsylvania Department of Labor statistics measure Philadelphia’s unemployment rate at nearly 6 percent, significantly higher than the national average. This number is most likely a conservative estimate as many people have simply given up on looking for work.

Philadelphia’s poverty rate is the highest of the top 10 U.S. cities, at 25.7 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Broadly, there is an enormous racial wealth gap.

Janelle Jones (Economic Policy Institute) states the following:

  • Average wealth for white families is seven times higher than that of Black families, while median wealth for white families is twelve times higher than for black families.
  • More than 25 percent of black households have zero or negative net worth, meaning they have no wealth. That number is less than 10 percent for white households.
  • A typical Black family with a head of household who holds full-time employment has less wealth than a typical white family with a head of household who is unemployed.

These numbers emphasize the seriousness of the situation. When MBEs have access to economic opportunities it puts money into households that are striving to break the cycle of poverty and unemployment. Openings are created for entrepreneurs to build and grow. Employment prospects expand.

The importance of diversity and inclusion has been mentioned quite often by Mayor Jim Kenney before and after his successful campaign. The Mayor has also discussed his new citywide workforce development strategy aimed at preparing residents for careers in family-sustaining jobs, most recently during his speech at last week’s Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Diversity and inclusion, a growing economy and family-sustaining jobs go hand and hand.

According to The Institute for Thought Diversity, “minority-owned businesses reinvigorate the stagnant economy, and continue to create sustainable jobs and positively contribute to the tax base. As the U.S. economy gets back on its feet, it cannot do so effectively without supporting and growing these important economic engines.”

As president and CEO of PRWT, the largest minority-owned provider of facilities-related services in the United States founded in 1988, I can speak from first-hand experience about the impact of minority-owned businesses in the community. PRWT provides opportunities to those who have been disenfranchised, those who are living in impoverished conditions, those who are looking for opportunities to re-enter the workforce from the criminal justice system. We use the success we have found to provide mentoring to smaller firms and give those firms opportunities to grow their business. We provide support to other diverse firms creating economic opportunities that extends beyond our firm’s doors. Together with our subcontractors, we employ hundreds of city residents, dozens of whom are considered to be living in areas at or below the poverty line.

While winning on the field is great, we need to also work just as hard at winning off of it.

Malik Majeed serves as CEO and general counsel of PRWT Services Inc.