Cook County topped the country in the number of black-owned businesses in 2007, according to recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau. That year the number of black-owned companies in the county reached 84,000, about 50 percent more than in 2002. The uptick in business ownership occurred at the same time the county's African-American population declined slightly.
Rashid Carter, professor of economics at Olive-Harvey College, says it's more important to look at the health of those businesses, as well as their staying power. He said many black businesses wind up shutting down when they can’t get enough capital, and that situation may have gotten worse since the data were collected in 2007. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, an economic slump began in December 2007.
"You need an expanding and robust customer base and of course you need access to financing and along those two margins, black businesses have suffered catastrophically historically but especially in the last four to five years," Carter said.
The Census Bureau data show that nationally, black-owned businesses tend to be small, with revenue less than $50,000.