Inclusive economic growth in the St. Louis region depends on our community’s support of Black-owned businesses. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and as business leaders, we understand how vital they are to individual and regional success. Their ability to create wealth, expand economic mobility and grow jobs can help drive our region forward. But we know, too, that our region’s Black-owned businesses historically have been left behind. Through the goals within 2030 STL Jobs Plan, we are actively working to change that.

In growing our economy, we must act with intention to address the multigenerational barriers some residents face to participate in, shape, and enjoy the opportunities we can create this decade.

We can only create inclusive economic growth if we acknowledge the historic, systemic disparities that exist in our region. These disparities led to generations of wealth inequality and diminished financial stability for Black St. Louisans. And these disparities diminished our region’s potential as well. The 2030 STL Jobs Plan reminds us that economists estimate an additional 8,000 businesses would exist in the region if Black St. Louisans started and owned businesses at the same rate as white residents. That amounts to 66,000 additional jobs and a 10% higher GDP if not for racial disparities in household income. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused additional harm, disproportionately affecting Black-owned businesses far more than their white counterparts.

Achieving a more equitable and inclusive economy requires all of us to collaborate and contribute. National Black Business Month, acknowledged annually each August, serves as an opportunity to discover new businesses and support established favorites. And it’s a reminder that this month and every day throughout the year, our community’s Black-owned businesses better our region and need community-wide support. Economic growth will lead to greater racial equity in our community. Let’s act with intention and transform our region together.

How can I help increase equity?

Shop local: Use directories like the Black Pages Business Directory (operating for 25 years), Every Day We Spend, and For the Culture STL to locate and patronize Black businesses in the St. Louis region.

Dine out or order in: Use an app like EatOkra, which connects foodies to location-based restaurants and food trucks, to treat yourself or your office to food from a Black-owned restaurant. Restaurants can get listed for free.

Follow the hashtags: Social media is a powerful resource. Use and follow hashtags like #NationalBlackBusinessMonth, #ShopBlackOwned, #BlackMakers, or #SupportBlackBusiness to find and support businesses.

Hold vendors accountable: Annually review your vendors for diversity of ownership, leadership, and programs, and seek out Black-owned/led vendors. When you find a gap, adjust to be more inclusive.

Make space for others: Get asked by a reporter for a quote? Rather than always taking that interview, pass the mic by suggesting a Black-owned business owner contribute to the story instead.

Explore additional ideas here.