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Black-owned businesses can’t bounce back without community support, advocates say

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Business owners have been through tremendous ups and downs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically for Black businesses owners, the struggle to gain equitable support has been even more real.

According to the Census Bureau, more than 4.4 million new businesses were created in the U.S. during 2020. In the same year, nearly 40% of Black-owned businesses closed their doors for good.

Lomax Campbell is the former director of the city of Rochester Office of CommunityWealth Building. He said many Black business owners could not access federal relief dollars and struggled to recover.

"Some people never got the funds that was promised to them, said Campbell. Others didn't meet the threshold of having to have a pre-existing banking relationship with an eligible lender in order to be eligible. And others just gave up on the process. But for those who got it, I think it has made a tremendous impact."

Campbell said there is a bright side. Many people have chosen entrepreneurship over returning to their pre-pandemic jobs, creating a surge of new Black business owners.

“With all of the risk (of COVID) that still abounds,some folks are realizing maybe I should just strike out on my own,” said Campbell. And so, you have more folks, including Black folks, starting businesses these days. I'm seeing it all across the country."

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Campbell manages BOBRochester.com, an online directory for Black-owned businesses. He said the directory’s numbers have been increasing since last year.

Campbell said it is essential to have supportive ecosystems for Black-owned businesses.

David Powe, president of Rochester Black Business Alliance said many businesses are still figuring how to transition to a digital economy, and organizations like Ibero-American Action league and the Urban League of Rochester have stepped in to provide support.

Powe remains optimistic that the community will continue to support local Black owned businesses during the holiday shopping season.

“I know sometimes it doesn’t seem like it, I’m convinced the future if bright for Black businesses in this greater Rochester economy and we are going to do everything it can to make it happen,” said Powe.

April Franklin is an occasional local host of WXXI's Weekend Edition.