25 years of covering the nation's largest black businesses.

Author:Edmond, Alfred, Jr.
Position:The B.E. 100s - Cover Story
 
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PRIOR TO THE LAUNCH OF BLACK ENTERPRISE Magazine in 1970, black business--with the exception of such prominent black-owned enterprises as Motown Industries and Johnson Publishing Co.--was invisible. Perhaps the most important role BE has played over the past quarter-century has been to reveal, define and document that black companies not only exist, but they are a significant indicator of the African-American economic condition. More important, they make critical contributions to the national economy.

There is no more authoritative barometer of the impact of black business than the BLACK ENTERPRISE 100s, the annual listing of the nation's largest black-owned companies. The anchor of BE's Annual Report On Black Business, the BE 100s is comprised of the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 and the BE AUTO DEALER 100. When the first BE 100 list was published in June 1973, the nation's largest black-owned businesses (which included auto dealerships) generated a total of $473 million in sales. Today, the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 alone is responsible for more than $6.7 billion in sales; the BE AUTO DEALER 100 adds another $5 billion. Whereas the original BE 100 were identified squarely with America's small business community, today's BE 100s are firmly entrenched among the nation's midsized and emerging growth companies.

But tracking the nation's largest black businesses involves far more than merely sales statistics. The trials and triumphs of the leading black businesses comprise a dramatic account of the African-American entrepreneurial legacy. The continuing story of Motown Records, the leveraged buyout of Beatrice International Foods, the initial public offering of BET Holdings and other chapters of black business history provide fascinating, informative and inspirational examples of how far black business has come in the past quarter-century.

The lives of entrepreneurs such as Berry Gordy, John H. Johnson, Herman J. Russell and the late Reginald F. Lewis have inspired generations of black business owners--several of whom are BE 100s CEOs today. Meanwhile, a new generation of BE 100s CEOs, including W. Don Cornwell, Russell Simmons, Karl Kani and Bob Johnson, are advancing African-American business further into the nation's economic mainstream and the global marketplace. These businesspeople, and others yet to emerge, have the potential to set the standard, not just for the next 25 years but well into the 21st century.

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