African American entrepreneurs are increasingly central to the maintenance of a strong U.S. economy. According to one recent analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, the number of Black small business owners in the United States was nearly 30 percent higher in the third quarter of 2021 than prior to the pandemic, a rate outpacing other demographic groups.
EDA is committed to ensuring the promise of American prosperity is equitably realized through its investments in projects and programs designed to generate new economic opportunities for the United States’ African American community.
Highlights of recent EDA investments include:
- HBCUs. In 2022, EDA added two new HBCUs to its roster of EDA-designated University Centers. Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, and Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee join existing EDA-designated HBCU University Centers including Florida A&M University and Southern University that are leveraging university assets to develop regional economic ecosystems that support innovation and high-growth entrepreneurship, resiliency, and inclusiveness.
- Access to Opportunity. Through the American Rescue Plan’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge and Good Jobs Challenge, EDA is supporting numerous innovative initiatives designed to boost economic opportunities for Black workers and businesses. For example, in Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi, the Mid-South Center for Occupational Innovation is leveraging a $21.5 million EDA grant and Memphis’ growth as a hotspot for Black tech talent to create on-ramps into good jobs for underrepresented workers in the advanced manufacturing and logistics sectors.
- Regional Approach. The economic ecosystems of Ventura and Los Angeles, California — home to two of the five highest concentrations of Black businesses in the nation — are being supported through EDA investments that include improvements to the economically vital Port of Hueneme; creation of new workforce development programs in the culinary and entertainment sectors; and the LA-R2C Accelerator, which aims to scale innovative bioscience technologies in the region.
- Knowledge Sharing. Through a recent grant to the New Growth Innovation Network, EDA launched Equity Impact Investments, a program focusing on development and delivery of training and toolkits that disseminate knowledge of economic development best practices in serving underrepresented populations, including the Black community.
“Black History Month is a time to reflect and recognize African Americans’ contributions to U.S. economic competitiveness and how those contributions have helped forge our vision of a more equitable nation,” said Alejandra Y. Castillo, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. “We aim to support the ecosystem that empowers communities and Black entrepreneurs whose innovation is essential for the modern American economy.”
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