Magazine article Black Enterprise

Texas: They Say Everything Is Bigger in Texas, but Is This True about Opportunities for African-Americans in the State's Largest Cities?

Magazine article Black Enterprise

Texas: They Say Everything Is Bigger in Texas, but Is This True about Opportunities for African-Americans in the State's Largest Cities?

Article excerpt

AS THE SAYING GOES, EVERYthing in Texas is bigger. Texans are known for big money, big cars, big homes and big hair, and now even their population is getting bigger; gaining an average of 29,000 new residents a month. Sometime this year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Texas will replace New York as the nation's second largest state (just behind California), with more than 18 million residents.

And Texas has big business on its mind. Home to 36 of the Fortune 500 companies, it is considered the energy capital of the world. Emerging from economic problems brought on by upheavals in the oil industry and by the banking and real estate crises of the early 1980s, it is fighting to reclaim its position among the most economically viable states in America.

With an unemployment rate of 7.5%, Texas still offers an array of opportunities for its citizens, especially African-Americans. Many minorities describe the Lone Star State as one of the last frontiers of opportunity.

Texas is home base to three industrial/service companies and eight car dealerships on the BLACK ENTERPRISE 100s lists. It is also the home of this year's BE Company of the Year, Drew Pearson Companies in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. (See "Coming Through in the Clutch," in this issue.)

The state's two most populated cities are Houston, with more than 1.6 million residents, and Dallas, with just above 1 million. Both cities enjoy substantial African-American populations, and despite some problems, they are forging pathways in the corporate and business arenas. BE takes a look at the problems and promises for African-Americans in Houston and Dallas.

DALLAS: THE |NEW FRONTIER' FOR BLACK BUSINESS?

The city is best known as "Big D," home of America's football team, the Dallas Cowboys. But all that bravado aside, Dallas is a city with more than its share of ups and downs. Like its distant neighbor, Houston, it has thrived, thanks to the tremendous worldwide demand for oil. But unlike Houston, its economy has not been as dependent on the black gold.

Nonetheless, Dallas did have some severe economic problems during the 1980s. That's when the bottom fell out and its overbuilt real estate market took a real beating, forcing many people into bankruptcy and onto the unemployment lines. But Dallas, like Houston, is once again climbing back on top, and many African-Americans are calling this city of one million the "new frontier."

"Dallas is finally opening up for African-Americans, and it's been a long time coming," says Calvin Stephens, the owner of Calvin W. Stephens & Associates, a Dallas-based management consulting firm. "From the entrepreneurial standpoint, Dallas is one of the last frontiers of untapped resources for entrepreneurship for blacks," adds Stephens, 49. Considered a major power broker in the city, he served as campaign manager for Dallas, popular mayor, Steve Bartlett, who was elected two years ago. The first African-American to head up such a campaign, Stephens is credited with helping Bartlett, a former U.S. congressman, win the election.

"Entrepreneurs can come to Dallas and get involved in things right away," says Stephens. "Dallas is also one of the few places where outsiders, people not from here, can come in and be part of the inner circle." Having said that, Stephens adds, the city still has "a long way to go in making sure that [African-Americans] have the same opportunities as everybody else . . . opportunities to borrow money, to get our fair share of the contracts from the public and private sectors and make a good living."

His wife, Sandra, 45, a manager of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, agrees that, along with opportunities in Dallas for African-Americans, there are still serious problems facing the city's minorities.

"Part of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s passed Dallas by," she explains. …

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