BRONZEVILLE — Chicago is quickly approaching a time when it will need to hand over its title as the lynchpin in the country’s African-American-owned business community as businesses see revenue drop, cut staff and leave the city.
Black Enterprise Magazine has published its annual list of the 100 largest African-American-owned companies and Chicago companies are dropping off the list.
Chicago now has only two businesses on the list, down from four in 2014, and likely will be down to just one next year with the move of Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo to West Hollywood in California.
The list includes the 100 largest African-American-owned industrial and business service firms ranked by revenue. Chicago firms did make prominent showings on the other much shorter lists for banks and financial firms, which are ranked by the assets under the firm's management or other measures.
African-American-owned businesses in Chicago now employ a quarter of the number of people compared to cities like Atlanta. Chicago is not even close to the top in the Midwest for number of workers, with companies in Milwaukee, Detroit and St. Louis all employing more than twice as many people as Chicago firms.
Like the broader business ecosystem, there are giants — companies that bring in more than $1 billion in revenue — and then there’s everyone else.
Illinois has no giants, and Chicago now has no African-American-owned firms bringing in more than $32 million in revenue a year with the departure of Harpo.
While Harpo might be a well-known name, but it isn’t a behemoth and it doesn’t even approach the scale of businesses like World Wide Technology in St. Louis.
The company’s founder, David Steward, grew up in Chicago, but he built his supply chain logistics company in St. Louis and it now employs more than 4,000 people and brings in more than $7.5 billion in revenue.
Chicago’s largest African-American-owned firm, janitorial services firm Diverse Facilities Solutions, employs 850 people and brings in $32 million in revenue.
With Johnson Publishing and Promet Energy Partners having fallen off the top 100 list because of lower revenue, the African-American-owned firms in the finance industry now rule the pack in Chicago.
Ariel Investments, lead by John Rogers Jr., is the largest African-American-owned asset management company in the country with more than $10 billion in assets under its management and 89 employees.
Chicago dominates in asset management, with four firms in the top 10 and more than $19.6 billion in assets under their supervision.
Seaway Bank and Trust Co., lead by Veranda Dickens, also cracked the top 10 for banks with more than $398 million in assets and capital and 235 employees.
Though Chicago’s Muller and Monroe Asset Management made the top 10 for private equity firms, the $693 million in capital under its management was dwarfed by big players like Vista Equity Partners of Austin, Texas, which manages $20 billion in capital.
These firms do a lot to pull up Chicago’s stature on the lists, but the financial firms employ relatively few people compared to other sectors and Black Enterprise did not collect revenue numbers for any of the financial sector firms.
The list reflects companies owned by African Americans, but does not include many publicly traded companies that may be lead by an Africa- American, such McDonald's, whose CEO Don Thompson retired last year.
To view the full list, visit Black Enterprise Magazine.
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