Entrepreneurship

Achieving business success today may depend on whereyou locate your business

agencies. “In my business, there is more opportunity on the West Coast because I do a lot of military contracting. One benefit of military contracts is that all the contractors automatically bid the same dollar amount, as set by the military, for labor and compete on other points.”

Blackstone also serves the private sector in large cities within the region, including San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose, California. His company has gained major contracts because of the diversity of industries, dealing with companies tied to the shipping, technology, biomedical, and entertainment sectors. “Some [companies] are up during the down times and some are down during the up times,” says Blackstone. “There’s so much diversity in the economy in California that there’s always the ability to market your services.”

Blackstone advises entrepreneurs who choose a business location to figure the cost of living and the tax structure: The downside of operating in California is exorbitant taxes. Though much of Blackstone’s workforce may be in other regions, he says, “The overall cost of living and doing business are higher than in other parts of the country, particularly the South. If I have a janitorial contract in California, the Worker’s Compensation costs are four to five times higher in California than in other states.”

He also concedes that there’s a smaller African American business community in California than there is in the South. “There’s also a greater diversity of industries and ethnicities on the West Coast,” he says. “If I went to Atlanta, there are hundreds of black-owned businesses there–and a bigger community to support them. But for those making it on the West Coast, it’s a vibrant community for participating in business.” Because he’s on the West Coast, Blackstone’s much more likely to win contracts in the region–even though most are federal. “There’s a comfort level for your customer that you’re a one-hour flight away from any city in California.”

Things are different for George W. Woods, who has had to be as tough as an iron bar to make it in the Northeast corridor. His Upper Darby, Pennsylvania-based USA Environmental Management Inc.–a $6 million environmental remediation, compliance, and industrial hygiene firm–is one of the few gazelle companies in that region. African Americans have had to battle what Woods calls “a lack of business credibility and racism”–a war he has successfully waged for decades. “How can you maximize the results of success in terms of dollar value and legacy? How can you continue your business legacy?” Woods asks. [By providing] “high-quality services to the community. The image has been projected of who we are: an honest, trustworthy firm. It’s the intangibles–the silent message that speaks louder than words–that count. I hire people that buy into that.”

James Jordan operates in the slowest region for African American business as well. Syracuse, New York-based Omega QSE Inc. has 99% of its construction, maintenance, and food services business in government and military contracts. His $10 million operation is not stymied by location and, as a result, Jordan hasn’t

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