Upstate celebrates impact of minority businesses in community

Credit: Michael Mance

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – This week the Upstate is celebrating all of their minority owned businesses. The 11th annual “Minority Enterprise Development Week” kicked off Monday with a speech by Greenville Mayor Knox White.

Tuesday evening, organizers held an Economic Summit focusing on factors that center around economics such as employment, housing, transportation, and education.

According to the South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs, African Americans in Greenville County have a $2 billion buying power. However, minority businesses don’t reflect that number.

Don Deas owns the Low Country Shrimper in Mauldin.

“I got let go from my job, and when I got let go from my job, I knew exactly what I wanted to do,” Deas said.

He started the restaurant two years ago. He says it hasn’t always been easy. But, his customers are steady and the restaurant is growing. He also says he has a lot of support from the Mauldin Chamber of Commerce and city government.

“There’s some days it’s not good,” Deas said.  “Some days you’re going to wake up with tears. Some days you’re going to wake up smiling.”

Deas is one of the more than 3000 African-American owned businesses in the Greenville County, but one of just 180 with employees.

“I’ve always wanted to have a business,” Deas said. “I’ve always wanted to have an avenue to reach young adults, get them in here for their first job, talk to them about college.”

The Minority Economic Development Institute chairman, S.T. Peden, says most minority businesses employ minorities, and it decreases unemployment in the community.

“We got them but they’re small,” Peden said. “They’re not growing to any larger. We are adding new businesses.”

However, the businesses are facing challenges.
“We don’t have the sustainability in those businesses to go from generation to generation,” Peden said.

He looks to downtown Greenville as an example. He says on Broad Street across from City Hall used to be the black business district during segregation.

“We’re continually losing ground of what we have had, what has been the foundation of our community that we could build on,” Peden said.

Peden says the African-American per capita income in the county is around $16,000.

“In minority communities, the dollar comes in and goes immediately back out,” Peden says.

He says in other minority communities, the dollar turns over several times. He would like to see the African-American community grow to that level but says it’s hard when 24% of African-Americans in the community live below the poverty level.

He says it’s important to create jobs these people can have, so problems don’t arise.

“Idle hands are the devils workshop, according to what I’ve been taught, and we have a lot of idle hands in Greenville,” Peden says.

He says that’s something they’re working to change.

You can see a list of events here.

The week culminates with an awards banquet where Deas will be recognized.