The state of black-owned businesses

Filling out tax forms

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Scott Jagow: Martin Luther King Day is a time to reflect on where we've come and what still lies ahead. We have this report on the state of black-owned businesses in America. Here's Tamara Keith.


Tamara Keith: The majority of black-owned businesses are small, employing fewer than 100 people and bringing in less than a million dollars a year according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

So Timothy Adams is an exception. His defense contracting business, Systems Application and Technologies, employs 350 people operating test ranges for the military.

Timothy Adams: In my community, I may be looked upon as a big business, but we know comparatively speaking, I'm still a very small business.

While the defense industry is recession-proof, he struggles to compete against fortune 500 companies with their greater capacity.

Adams has been in business for 20 years. Still, he says government programs that set aside contracts for small and minority-owned business are needed, despite changing attitudes on race.

Adams: We're still a long way from being able to say everything is on an even footing, there's parity and we can move on. We are definitely moving in the right direction.

According to the National Black Chamber of Commerce, there are 1 million black-owned businesses in the United States, bring in more than $100 billion in sales.

I'm Tamara Keith for Marketplace.

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