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Progress, challenges, recommendations in Arizona Black business report

Seventeen months after releasing the first “State of Black Business” report, the Arizona groups involved are sharing progress, challenges and recommendations.

Timing was everything for Maria Laughner, deputy economic development director for Tempe. Days after listening to last year’s presentation on the state of Black business, she read an article about the growth of micro-manufacturing in urban areas and thought it might be a good fit for her landlocked city.

“You don’t need, you know, 50,000 or 100,000 square feet of warehouse space and, you know, large equipment,” she said.

But micro-manufacturers do need some space, along with raw materials and equipment. Laughner took her idea to Teniqua Broughton, executive director, State of Black Arizona. 

“A lot of it is you don’t know what you don’t’ know until you start talking We talked for several months before she actually decided what was going to be the final product and so that is huge,” she said.

In September, Tempe’s City Council will be asked to approve a mico-manufacturing entrepreneurship program to provide seed capital and business training for Black, Indigenous and people of color. After the city secured $500,000 in federal funding, Laughner said Tempe committed $300,000.

The need for more conversations, collaborations and access to capital were among key points shared Wednesday when the report was released by the State of Black Arizona, in partnership with Greater Phoenix Economic Council, Black Chamber of Arizona, Black Philanthropy Initiative, Center for the Future of Arizona, and the Arizona Center for Economic Progress.

“We believe as the Black Chamber of Arizona, very strongly in the fact that we need a central database for Black-owned business, what we don’t need is five or six organizations with fragmented information that are never coming together,” said Robin Reed, chamber president. “In support of that, we created a business directory membership for our chamber, it is a no cost membership that allows us to collect data on businesses-you don’t have to pay anything for it-and then at different intervals we are collecting that data and sharing it with Blax Friday, so it becomes part of what they are doing so we can go to one central database.”

Based in southern Arizona, Blax Friday was created in 2020 to highlight Black businesses across the state.

Broughton said it’s not about helping one group at the expense of others, “But we must continue our fight to make intentional, target[ed] investments of political, social and business capital to aid in our priorities of building a better ecosystem for Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs. It is a matter of good business, which creates a greater opportunity for all Arizonans.”

The report focuses on access to capital and undercapitalization and local and national programs that can combat the wealth disparity gap.

Recommendations from State of Black Business 2022 report include:

  • Increase access to startup capital
  • Generate new venture funding opportunities
  • Terms of credit for Black-owned businesses
  • Close the financial institution gap
As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.