For 40 years, Black Enterprise has chronicled the impact that the nation’s largest black-owned businesses have had on the U.S. economy. But measuring influence of the BE 100s takes more than just tallying up a dollar amount or counting the number of jobs created. It also requires a look at the products and services that help shape the day-to-day lives of all Americans. In this light, we’ve reviewed some of the brands used by millions around the globe daily that are, in fact, produced by African American–owned businesses. Here are a few of them:
Millions of people enjoy McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches each day unaware that Fair Oaks Farms (No. 15 on the BE Industrial/Service companies list with $288.8 million in revenues) supplies the bacon and sausage to the quick-service restaurant giant. Based in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, Fair Oaks Farms provides the sausage patties and bacon for the majority of the McDonald’s stores in the U.S., as well as locations in Canada and Japan.
If you drive a Nissan in one of the cold-weather states, you probably owe a bit of thanks to Madison, Mississippi-based Systems Electro Coating L.L.C. (No. 64 on the BE Industrial/Service companies list with $48.8 million in revenues). Using a special electro-chemical process, the company treats auto frames to ensure that they remain rust-free, even in the harshest of climates. The company treated more than 62,000 vehicle frames in 2011.
This means that PRWT controls and distributes the little white box that adheres to the windshield. Via cameras that snap a photo of the offender’s license plate, the company also tracks toll-beaters who zip through the E-ZPass lane without the device. PRWT then alerts authorities and the vehicle’s owner can expect a ticket in the mail, much to his or her chagrin. “Hey, I’m doing my job,” asserts Epps.
Parks Breakfast Sausages
Those around in the 1970s and 1980s may recall Saturday morning radio and television commercials featuring a child calling, “More Parks Sausages, Mom … please!” The late Henry Green Parks Jr. took his southern recipes and formed Parks Sausages in 1951. In 1969, the company became the first African American–owned publicly traded company and was later acquired by NFL legend Franco Harris.
Long lines at tollbooths are becoming a thing of the past for motorists using E-ZPass. Vehicles equipped with the small electronic device zip past tollbooths without their drivers having to scramble for loose change. Lockheed Martin Corp. and AT&T Inc. developed the technology, while PRWT Services Inc. (No. 36 on the BE Industrial/Service companies list with $95 million in revenues) handles the operations. “So, for the state of New York and the state of New Jersey, we still do parts of E-ZPass management or transportation management,” says Harold Epps, the company’s president and CEO.
Mrs. Richardson’s Toppings
Based in Frankfort, Illinois, Baldwin Richardson Foods Co. (No. 23 on the BE Industrial/Service companies list with $173 million in revenues) is the company behind food products that include Mrs. Richardson’s dessert toppings. Mrs. Richardson’s is offered in seven flavors, including hot fudge and butterscotch caramel, and is distributed nationwide in stores such as Kroger, Safeway, Meijer, Wegmans, and Supervalu.
Ford F-150 Pickup Truck
Americans love their trucks. It’s no surprise that the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for the last 30 years has been the Ford F-Series, a line of pickups. Detroit-based Bridgewater Interiors L.L.C. (No. 3 on the BE Industrial/Service companies list with $1.7 billion in revenues) has been responsible for the car seats in the Ford F-150 since 2004. As a Tier 1 supplier to Ford, Bridgewater manages the complete seat contract—from engineering to design to assembly.
Headed by CEO Ronald E. Hall Sr., Bridgewater (BE’s Industrial/Service Company of the Year in 2011) produced seating systems for some 334,000 F-150 trucks in their fiscal year 2011, which ended Sep. 30. According to Hall, seating is one of the most important components of a vehicle. “We are starting to see more complex, sophisticated seats in cars—air-cooled in the summer, heated in the winter, six-way power seats, and so on,” says Hall. “And the first thing people do when they look at buying a new car is to look at the seats and sit in them to see how they feel.”
Formerly a division of Dimensions International Inc. (BE’s 2005 BE Industrial/Service Company of the Year), Flight Explorer is a suite of flight-tracking software used by FedEx, UPS, NetJets, and American Airlines. It can also be seen on CNN when the network’s air traffic specialist, Rally Caparas, delivers his flight and airport delay reports. After the 9/11 attacks, Flight Explorer was used by the government to track commercial aircrafts and was the predominant flight-tracking technology used by news agencies. DI was acquired by Honeywell in 2007 and Flight Explorer was sold to Sabre Holdings in 2008.
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport
The busiest airport in the nation had more than 89 million passengers in 2010. And with the opening of the Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal (scheduled last month), it’s about to get busier. Serving as program manager for the $1.4 billion construction is H. J. Russell & Co. (No. 16 on the BE Industrial/Service companies list with $270.4 million in revenues). The 1.2 million-square-foot terminal will add 12 international gates to accommodate larger airplanes. It also includes restaurants and retail stores that will collectively create about 1,000 jobs. H. J. Russell is part of a group that’s handling all the capital projects in the airport—a $5 billion program that also includes a new consolidated car rental facility and significant infrastructure improvements throughout the airport.
“This is the crown jewel of our construction program management projects,” says Michael Russell, CEO. “It will be a great new gateway for the city of Atlanta and for our international travelers, and it keeps Atlanta as the leader in passenger travel of any airport in the world.”