As we all try to look ahead and see what the New Year has in store for this region’s economy there are some less visible but possibly more promising early signs of recovery. At the end of 2009 the UW Foster School Business and Economic Development Center celebrated the successes of small businesses from across the state at the 11th annual UW Minority Business of the Year Awards banquet. The 550+ attendees celebrated the incredible growth that minority-owned businesses have had in Washington.
- When the awards program began in 1999 the 50 largest minority-owned businesses in Washington had combined revenues of under $1 billion.
- This year, the 50 largest had combined revenues in excess of $3 billion. And for the first time there’s a minority-owned business, PetroCard Systems of Kent, which has revenues in excess of $1 billion.
- As recently as five years ago, companies could get on the largest minority-owned business list with sales of as little as $750,000 and this year, the smallest of the 50 largest businesses had revenues in excess of $3.4 million.
- The fastest growing minority-owned business this year (for the 5th time in 7 years) comes from the Spokane area. The Spokane Tribal Enterprise Corporation has grown its revenues by more than 760% in the last three years and has grown from just seven employees to nearly 50.
- The 25 fastest-growing, minority-owned businesses in Washington have added more than 600 jobs in the last three years, despite the recession.
Prior to the 2009 awards banquet, we held our annual Minority CEO Summit. This invitation-only event drew 40 CEOs of million dollar plus companies and the strategies that these companies were employing to grow were impressive and proving to be very successful. Some companies were developing joint ventures with companies throughout the Pacific Rim. Others were acquiring competitors, and still other companies were developing business-to-business relationships with other minority-owned companies to grab market share and to do business with each other.
Also at the Summit, Foster School economics professor Alan Hess presented the Chicago Federal Reserve Index of economic activity which showed that the economic recovery is ahead of schedule when compared to an average of the six recessions between 1970 and 2001. This was a great encouragement to the CEOs at the Summit who are all anxious to make new investments as the economy turns around.
While these CEOs of some of Washington’s largest and fastest growing minority-owned businesses were not feeling like the good times were rolling yet, as they talked with each other at the CEO Summit and Minority Business of the Year Awards, they were optimistic about their opportunities in 2010 – something we can all celebrate.
By Michael Verchot, director of the UW Business and Economic Development Center