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Business ownership rates skewed significantly by race and gender in the Cape Fear Region

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Cape Fear Collective’s landmark equity study has some startling findings on opportunity in the Cape Fear Region. WHQR’s Kelly Kenoyer brought data analyst Dante Haywood into the studio to discuss business ownership and the job training pipeline in Wilmington.

Kelly Kenoyer: Who tends to own the businesses in Wilmington?

Dante Haywood: Yeah, what we see in the data is that the primary business owners are most definitely white males. Especially considering their impact.

Well, first off the region is about 75 to 77% white. But within that white population, they just account for so many more businesses, per capita, that it's, it's actually kind of amazing. And we think about networks and how people can infiltrate those networks and, you know, get the connections that they need to start a business to get credit. It's the people, quite frankly, with the power to, you know, help people in those positions are majorly white.

KK: Did COVID-19 impact businesses differently depending on who the owners were?

DH: Yes, most definitely. First, I mean, just the access to capital and savings. We know from decades of research that Black businesses do not have the amount or the number of resources on average that White business owners do. And so when we look at Hispanic businesses, Black businesses, most definitely the effect of COVID is three times as strong than on the effect on White businesses. And, you know, a lot of that has to do with, you know, the resources that people have access to- credit.

KK: Yeah, the startling statistic that I read was across the United States 60% of black-owned businesses closed during the pandemic. That's such a startling figure.

DH: Yeah, it's kind of absurd. Really, it's really devastating. Really.

KK: How has COVID-19 impacted workers differently, depending on their previous income?

DH: Yeah. What we see is the essential or low-wage workers. They're impacted the most, and people of color are impacted the most. When we go into to the report, we see that the decline or loss of income, due to COVID, over time, is rapidly decreasing for the white and Asian population within our region. However, for other groups, the effects of COVID haven't died down for them just yet.

KK: The report also outlines a trend where new, higher-income jobs are largely going to newcomers to the region, instead of locals. What can be done to make sure those jobs are going to locals?

DH: Yeah, there is a huge concern for higher-paying jobs going to people outside their region. And that's always going to be the case, you're never going to have local people, 100% of those jobs taken by local people.

But what we can do is make sure that we are aligning our workforce pipeline to our industry here. And specifically, what we're looking at is health, professional and technical services, construction and education as what we’d say are opportunity industries within the region.

So by developing workforce pipelines, maybe boot camps, other internships and things like that, to give local people the ability to actually get those jobs.

KK: So job training programs, that kind of thing. I noticed one of the things the county is investing in right now is a program with Step Up, that's training people to get involved in the film industry. Is that the kind of thing you’re looking at?

DH: Most definitely, I think that would be one example, or just the nursing program here. I mean, that is a huge feeder program for the hospitals here and that we need to make sure that program stays in order to feed those jobs.

Cape Fear Collective's full Inclusive Economy report is available here.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant new to the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.