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The Survey of Texas Black-owned Businesses

Charles O’neal | 6/30/2014, 11:50 a.m.
The Dallas Examiner Logo Photo by Robyn H. Jimenez

Strategique

It should be understood that without the commitment of University of Texas President William Powers there would be no Survey of Texas Black-owned Businesses. Spurred by the urging of long-time Texas Association of African American Chambers of Commerce supporter Arthur McDonald (Director of UT-Austin’s Historically Underutilized Business department) and the irrepressible Dr. John Sibley Butler, Powers commissioned Dr. Bruce Kellison and his team of researchers at the UT Bureau of Business Research and the rest – as it is said – is history!

The findings detailed in the survey report are important, if for no reason other than they provide a snapshot of the current status of those Black-owned businesses that responded to the survey. As an empirical dataset, the survey findings provide insight into ownership demographics, business characteristics, expressed training needs and business owners’ perceptions regarding access to opportunity in both the public and private sectors. Not surprisingly, responses to the survey mirror the experiences of the TAAACC.

That does not mean, however, that TAAACC agrees with the inferences drawn from the data as expressed in the report detail. Why? Because context matters!

TAAACC is an advocacy organization that relies on data – both empirical and anecdotal – to challenge the status quo. The Bureau of Business Research mines data as a function of the status quo! That is not an insignificant distinction. Data derived through objective survey can be instructive, if left unfiltered. When delivered under the aegis and imprimatur of the University of Texas the data confer – at the very least – an implied, unimpeachable veracity that relegates dissenting conclusions to the scrap heap.

For example, access to capital-dominated survey responses as the top challenge faced by Black-owned businesses. Over half of survey respondents had never applied for a business loan, not quite 30 percent had successfully pursued bank financing and about 20 percent noted that they were unsuccessful in earning bank approval for a loan after applying. Of business owners responding to the survey, 91 percent had at least some college and 67 percent held bachelor’s degrees, significantly higher educational attainment than Texas’ Black population overall. Additionally, over half of these respondents had been in business over 10 years.

Why are these details important? Because context matters! Researchers at the BBR looked at these findings and determined that these well-educated, established business-owners need training in how to access capital! TAAACC – and other advocacy organizations representing the interests of ethnic minority-owned businesses – would suggest that financial institutions and their lending officers are those most in need of training. When over 50 percent of a group of otherwise skilled, experienced business owners don’t even apply for bank financing it may be more symptomatic of systemic failure than a need for training. Both approaches – training business owners or overhauling banking practices – would likely result in more capital available to Black-owned businesses. One, however, would implicitly stigmatize Black business owners as unprepared – a result that is glaringly inconsistent with survey findings.

Another instance in which the lack of contextual alignment is graphically evident: A bulleted heading labeled “Certifications” notes that, “… Minority set-aside business programs can provide significant market access for minority-owned firms.” This would be true except for one small detail … no such programs exist!