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Awards & Lists

America's Top Black Entrepreneurs
By Tyrone D. Taborn
Nov 1, 2005, 08:00

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Just-released data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals both the progress and the challenges that Blacks and other minorities are making in their quest to join the ranks of America's successful independent business owners.  Much of the news is encouraging, but we see signs of the challenges ahead in the fine print.

First the good news: African Americans are becoming business owners at a spectacular rate. Now the bad news: plenty of obstacles that limit minority participation in entrepreneurship still remain.

Recent Census Bureau data, released July 28, 2005 in a report entitled "Preliminary Estimates of Business Ownership by Gender, Hispanic or Latino Origin, and Race: 2002" provides many positive insights.

While the number of U.S. businesses increased, from 1997--2002, by 10 to 23 million, the rate of growth for minority- and women-owned business was far higher.  What's more, during the same period, these 23 million businesses increased their receipts by 22 percent to nearly $23 trillion.  Increases in receipts ranged from a high of 30 percent for Black-owned firms to 5 percent for business owned by whites.

The devil, however, is in the details, and these details will be the ultimate measure of long-term success.  How many minority-owned business will obtain the clients and the capital to survive?  How much of this business growth is due to the collapse of dot-coms and subsequent "downsizing" that forced many professionals to become self-employed?  How many will still be in business when the next survey is completed? But for now at least, we can cheer the growth of minority business in America.

According to the Census report:

* There were 1.2 million Black-owned businesses in 2002, up 45 percent from 1997.  Their receipts were $92.7 billion, up 30 percent from five years earlier.

* An estimated 94,862 Black-owned business had paid employees, and their receipts totaled $68.8 billion, or about $735,586 on average per firm.

* Black-owned businesses with no paid employees number 1.1 million, up 51 percent from 1997.  They had receipts of $22.9 billion, up 54 percent from 1997.  Average receipts of these businesses were $20,761 per firm.

Who Wins, Who Loses in Small Business

For Blacks, then, the good news is a 45 percent increase in business ownership between 1997 and 2002.  But before we retire from the fight, let's put this data into perspective.  The increase in gross receipts during the same period was 30 percent.  What's more, of those 1.2 million Black-owned businesses in 2002, fewer than 10 percent of them---94,862 according to the survey---had any paid employees.  Furthermore, those Black firms with no employees had paid receipts averaging less than $21,000 each! Yes, there are more African Americans pursuing the dream of independence, but they do not appear to be getting rich quick.

Breaking Barriers

Despite the progress being made by Black firms, as the data makes clear, minorities still face a number of hurdles not faced by the majority population when it comes to starting and succeeding in business. Some of these challenges are unique to the minority community.

One of the biggest problems is access to funding. Minorities often don't have access to banks or venture capitalists, and don't know how to approach them. Also, many successful large companies seek small, minority-owned companies to partner with, but it takes an aggressive, street-smart business executive to find and take advantage of this sort of opportunity.

Once the business is started, many other questions follow. Just how do you get your first customer or find out who needs your products? How do you price your products to be competitive? Without a mentor to answer these questions and clear these roadblocks, the odds of success diminish. The importance of role models simply cannot be overestimated.

2005 Top Technology Entrepreneurs

Because of these challenges, we take particular pride in announcing the 2005 Top Technology Entrepreneurs. This elite group of entrepreneurs has defied the odds by combining business acumen, technology savvy, and determination to excel in business. According to Joe Haskins, President and CEO of Harbor Bank, a leading African-American bank, "It's easy to get into the business. The hard part is staying in business."

A number of those being honored as Top Black Entrepreneurs are leaders in homeland security and defense. UNITECH, out of Virginia, is one such company. Since the early 1980s, UNITECH has been a key contractor with the Defense Nuclear Weapons School, providing services to DNWS in training and crisis management. UNITECH's chief executive, Earl W. Stafford, falls into the category of 43.1 percent of African-American business owners who had previously worked in a business or organization with similar services. Before entering the business world, Stafford had a 20-year-long career in the U.S. Air Force. There, he worked in air traffic control operations and systems, communications, computers, and navigation services. He brought those competencies to UNITECH, where the company offers vulnerability assessments for both aviation and seaports.

Eric Adolphe, CEO of OPTIMUS, a $36-million corporation that provides information technology tools and services to enhance public safety, is another example of a business owner who brought previous experience to his business. Adolphe has more than 20 years of proven product development and senior management experience. He served as special projects director for SENTEL Corporation, as engineering manager for NavCom, and as an electronics engineer for the FAA. Adolphe's Mini-Telecommunications Demarcation System can be found in every air traffic control facility in the nation.

Joseph B. Anderson was a finalist for the Black Engineer of the Year award and, like Stafford and Adolphe, has a distinguished military career. Anderson graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1965, with a B.S. in math and engineering. He later received two master's degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1972 and 1973.

Anderson and the infantry platoon he commanded in Vietnam were subjects of the highly acclaimed documentary film "The Anderson Platoon," which won an Academy Award and an Emmy for the "Best Documentary Film of 1967." His military awards include two silver stars, five bronze stars, three Army Commendation Medals, and eleven Air Medals. Today he is chairman and CEO of TAG Holdings, LLC. In 2004, the group of companies had revenues of $103.2 million. In January 2005, with the acquisition of two additional companies, projected revenues are $320.1 million. The enterprise employs 340 people in the U.S, China, and Korea.

Army Maj. Gen. Roger R. Blunt is Chairman and CEO of Essex Construction, LLC, a company recognized as an industry leader for commercial, institutional, and highrise residential construction projects throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Blunt, who made our list last year, is a corporate leader and holds membership in the Presidents' Round Table, a leading business organization of Maryland African-American companies.

Maria Jackson is another two-time listee and a member of the Presidents' Round Table. Jackson is CEO of Maricom Systems, an IBM Premier Business Partner. Maricom is an IT consulting firm that works closely with government agencies, commercial businesses, and FORTUNE 500 companies. Jackson recently served on the Business Development Advisory Committee to Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich's Commission on Minority Business Reform and won a MD/DC Minority Supplier Diversity Council's Outstanding Woman of Color Award in 2003.


Business Services

Anthony R. Chase
Chairman and CEO

David Dalton, Ph.D.
Health Resources, Inc.
Verle W. Hammond
President and CEO

Kase L. Lawal
Chairman and CEO
CAMAC Holdings Inc.

William G. Mays
Mays Chemical Company


Robert D. Blackwell Sr., CEO
Pamela Blackwell, President & COO
Blackwell Consulting Services

Marvin Carroll, Ph.D.
Tec-Masters, Inc.

James F. Garrett
President and CEO
SENTEL Corporation

Andé Gist
Manufacturers Industrial Group, LLC

Darryl K. Horne, P.E.
Founder and Chairman
Grady C. Wright
President and CEO
Horne Engineering Services, Inc.

Delon Hampton, Ph.D., PE, Founder and Chairman
Jeffrey Humber, President and CEO
Delon Hampton & Associates, Chartered

Rodney P. Hunt
President and CEO
RS Information Systems, Inc.

Maria Jackson, President
Renard U. Johnson, CEO
Management & Engineering Technologies International, Inc.

Walter F. Johnson, III, CEO
T. Fitz Johnson, President
Eagle Group International, Inc.

Willie F. Johnson, Principal and Chairman
Skip Lee, President and CEO
PRW Services

Clyde Jupiter
Founder and Chair

Roderick K. Rickman
President and CEO
MPS Group Inc.

Gale Sayers

Earl W. Stafford
Chairman and CEO

John Stallworth
President and CEO
Madison Research Corporation

David Steward
Chairman of the Board
World Wide Technology, Inc.

J.R. Taylor, Ph.D., CMC
President and CEO 
Graystone Management Group, Ltd. 

Kathryn C. Turner
Chairman and CEO
Standard Technology, Inc.

Anita B. Williams
President and CEO

Russell T. Wright
Chairman and CEO
Dimensions International, Inc.

Information Technology

Kathryn B. Freeland
RGII Technologies, Inc.

Raymond A. Huger
Chairman and CEO
Paradigm Solutions

Horace F. Jones, Ed.D
President & CEO
Advanced Resource Technologies, Inc.

André L. Lynch
Chairman and CEO
Ingenium Corporation
Gloria D. Redman
President and CEO
Triumph Technologies, Inc.

Frank White, Jr.
Chairman and CEO
Advanced Concepts, Inc

Garland O. Williamson
President and CEO
Information Control Systems Corporation


Lawrence Crawford, D.D.S.
President and CEO
DBM Technologies, LLC

Don Cunningham
OEM/Erie, Inc.

Carlton L. Highsmith
President and CEO
The Specialized Packaging Group, Inc.

Gerald D. Edwards
President and CEO
Engineered Plastic Products, Inc.

Gregory Liautaud
Capsonic Group

William F. Pickard
Chairman and CEO
Global Automotive Alliance LLC

Joe Wilson
Chairman and CEO
Integrated Packaging Corporation


Joseph E. Fergus
President and CEO
COMTek, Communication Technologies, Inc.

Maurice B. Tosé
Chairman, President and CEO
TeleCommunication Systems, Inc.

Patricia Williams
President and CEO
Omega Technologies, Inc.

Mark Wilson
Founder, President & CEO
Ryla Teleservices, Inc.

To read more about America's Top Black Entrepreneurs see America's Top Black Entrepreneurs in the USBE News archive.

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