Making Southwestern Pennsylvania
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African American Businesses in the Pittsburgh Region

An important goal for the Pittsburgh Region is to improve the economic status of the African American population. Reducing unemployment and increasing rates of homeownership are critically important actions, but so are increasing the number of African Americans who own businesses and making existing businesses more successful.

The Census Bureau's newest Survey of Business Owners, which was conducted as part of the 2002 Economic Census, provide some important insights on the state of the local African American business community.

Based on the Census Bureau’s estimates, there were 4,363 black-owned firms in our region in 2002. Only 452 of them had any paid employees, so the majority were sole proprietorships or partnerships. Pittsburgh had the 6th smallest number of black-owned firms among the top 40 metro regions in the country.

The small number of African American firms is not explained by the smaller than average number of African Americans in the region’s population. In fact, we rank 37th among the top 40 regions in the number of black-owned firms relative to the size of the black population in the region.

Although the bad news is we have a small number of black-owned businesses, the good news is they are larger than the average black-owned business in other metro areas:

How is the size of the African American business community changing? Unfortunately, the 2002 Economic Census was taken in the middle of the national recession, and the previous Economic Census (1997) was taken in the midst of a growing economy, so comparisons can be somewhat misleading.

In summary, although the number of African American businesses in the region is smaller than it could or should be, the businesses we do have provide a solid base to build on. The majority-owned businesses in the region can help increase the number and size of minority businesses by seeking them out as suppliers, and by providing mentoring and support to minority entrepreneurs.

If you’d like to help, contact the African American Chamber of Commerce ( and the Pittsburgh Regional Minority Purchasing Council (


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African American Businesses in the Pittsburgh Region