government-vending program replicated in other states or on the federal level. Still, locales that foster partnerships between minority and majority firms can help bolster the economy. Boston points to success stories such as the use of black construction and architectural firms in the South and automotive suppliers in the Midwest.
Another reason for the growth of black businesses in the South and Midwest is the snowballing influence of corporate transplants. “About 50% of successful entrepreneurs were former managers and administrators in the corporate sector,” maintains Boston.
TECHNOLOGY STILL DRIVES GROWTH
Boston’s gazelles are also prevalent within certain industries in the growth regions. The most notable sector is business-to-business information technology services. That area is followed by engineering, architectural services, construction, and health services–mostly located in Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.
Boston acknowledges that the ease of obtaining capital is one characteristic that’s difficult to assess by region. After reviewing statewide i
nitiatives to support businesses, Early Morning’s Stevenson took an informal look at access to capital in her region. “I would say Maryland banks are a three on a one-to-five scale in terms of getting capital for small businesses in [the] technology [field],” says Stevenson. “I feel there are still inequities in access to capital by minority-owned and women-owned businesses of similar size.”
Outfits in some cities, like Atlanta, have taken steps to close the capital gap. One such organization, GRASP Enterprises (www.graspnet.org), which is tied to the Greater Atlanta Small Business Project and made up of retired executives, helps small businesses to, among other things, find startup and expansion money.
DISPATCHES FROM THE OUTPOSTS
For years, Louis S. Culpepper has found growth for his $4 million firm in the South. He has expanded Atlanta-based Culpepper & Associates Security Services to satellites in New Orleans; Birmingham, Alabama; Tampa, Florida; and Jackson and Pascagoula, Mississippi. In general, Culpepper advises entrepreneurs to stick to states east of the Mississippi and south of Virginia because of lower taxes and other incentives. “In the South, it’s easier than in metropolitan areas,” he says. “Different business organizations help you develop your company.”
But he counsels that all states in a given region don’t have the same modus operandi. For example, Culpepper doesn’t count Arkansas and Louisiana among high-opportunity states for African Americans. “Unless you were raised in Louisiana and developed personal relationships, it’s very difficult doing business there,” he says.
Now that his company has an established presence in the South, Culpepper has decided to go West–the next to slowest growth region of the four. In the second quarter of 2003, he will open a new branch in Las Vegas. Why? “Las Vegas has great growth opportunities,” says Culpepper, “because the cost of living is economical. The state has a Southeast aura from an economical standpoint.”
Joe Blackstone, president of Blackstone Consulting Inc. (www.blackstone-consulting.com), which provides janitorial services, food service, and security personnel, has planted his entrepreneurial flag on the West Coast. Headquartered in Los Angeles, Blackstone finds the city’s cultural diversity “a real positive,” successfully leveraging the financial community and government