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Black-owned businesses show increasing positive impact on regional economy

two women pose for picture in side embrace
Tana Weingartner
Aretha Furr (at left), owner of A-List Transportation and Cleaning and Garri Davis, owner of Water Lily Learning Center and the Garri Davis Agency.

An updated economic impact study looking at Black-owned businesses in Southwest Ohio shows strong returns and room for growth. The survey from the UC Economics Center and the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce (AACC) reports Black-owned businesses have an economic impact of more than $2.1 billion annually.

That figure is up from $1.4 billion last year whenthe first-of-its-kind study was completed.

The updated study shows Black-owned businesses in Butler, Clermont, Hamilton and Warren counties employ 5,914 people with more than $306 million in earnings. Those numbers are lower than the previous year, which also included counties in Northern Kentucky, according to David Mahon, Ph.d., executive director of the UC Economics Center.

The initial study broke new ground because there were no readily available statistics about the number of Black-owned businesses locally, nor how many people they employ and other payroll data. The data collection process began by asking people to self-identify their businesses and provide that data. Mahon says more businesses were surveyed this time around — nearly 1,000 participated — which likely accounts for part of the increase in overall economic impact.

"The most common industries were professional, scientific and technical services, health care and social assistance, accommodation and food services, construction and retail trade," Mahon says, noting Black-owned businesses generate approximately $6.7 million in income tax for Ohio and more than $13.5 million in fiscal impacts to the region and state.

"This type of study is critical for those who had any doubt as to the value of Black-owned businesses, this should put that to rest," Mahon adds.

He says that's important information for people who may be considering opening a business in the Tri-State.

"If you are an entrepreneur, that you're thinking that you want to start a business in a place that might potentially encourage your business's growth, I think this shows that Southwest Ohio has the potential to be that place, and it also demonstrates the critical role that Black-owned businesses play in the future of Cincinnati's growth."

Chamber President and CEO Eric Kearney says the results are encouraging and valuable. He says this study provides additional geographic insights which can help businesses and lenders. Potential business owners can use the data to help find startup funding, acquire loans, and secure other assistance by understanding the existing markets and communities.

Kearney says that shows the importance of organizations like the AACC and others providing training, technical direction and other assistance to help new businesses succeed.

Aretha Furr owns A-List Transportation and Cleaning which recently celebrated its second anniversary. She founded the company after watching the difficulties her mother, a double amputee, had securing safe, reliable, clean transportation.

"She would go repeatedly to dialysis and medical appointments and she often complained about the level of service that she was receiving at the given time. She complained as far as communication, being forgotten about, getting picked up on time," Furr explains.

In two years, Furr says she's grown her startup from one person and one vehicle to eight employees and six vehicles providing daily service.

Garri Davis owns two businesses which have grown during the pandemic, despite challenges that hit the childcare industry hard. She owns Water Lily Learning Center and the Garri Davis Agency.

"Over the past few years we have had a lot of difficulties with staffing, funding (and) supply chain just like regular larger-size businesses," she says. "That economic impact study shows that we have been resilient throughout COVID, and that the funding that's available has helped us to be sustainable and competitive in our industries."

Eric Kearney is on the Cincinnati Public Radio board.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.