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Minority buying power jumps

By Justin Boron

The influx of minorities to the south metro area in the last decade has suffused the area with new money that could work to elevate the business landscape and stabilize the local economy, economics experts say.

With an abundance of Hispanic, African-American, and Asian newcomers permeating Clayton and Henry County in the past 14 years, the buying power of minorities has seen a sharp increase, according to a report from the Selig Center for Economic Growth, Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia.

The report entitled, "The Multicultural Economy," shows African-American purchasing power shooting 454.7 percent in the past 14 years in Clayton County, where blacks make up almost 60 percent of the economy, a recent U.S. Census estimate says.

In 1990, blacks' share of market's spending dollars teetered just above $500,000. This year, the report put it at almost $3 million.

The upturn in African-American purchasing power can be attributed primarily to an influx of affluent black families moving to the suburbs, said Nikki Finlay, an assistant professor at Clayton College and State University.

Although some existing minorities may have seen more purchasing power, she said there are pockets in the community where the African-American economy is still subdued, meaning that little has changed in the poorer minorities.

Places in the community are evident of this stagnation, she said.

"If you drive down Riverdale Road, it looks like its dead," Finlay said.

Increased buying power doesn't necessarily correlate to a climb in the socioeconomic hierarchy, she said.

"It would be nice to think so but you could just have more haves and more have nots," she said.

However, one benefit of expanding minority markets is economic stability, Finlay said.

"There is certainly something to the trickle-down theory of the late 80s," she said.

Trickle-down or not, the economic strength in Clayton County blacks has revved the engine of the community's economy, said Emory Brock, the director of economic development.

"Obviously, it has a huge affect on Clayton County," Brock said. "We have a very affluent black population hence we have very strong minority buying power."

Through more affluence and an improved local economy, the level of educational attainment will be driven up, further strengthening local financial stability, he said.

"Black families want what every family wants – good schools and a safe place to raise children," Brock said.

In Henry County, the demographic presence of blacks is more subdued than Clayton County, but its Asian population has seen an increase in its collective wallet, producing a stream of minority business, said Al Hosford, the chairman of the board of directors for the Henry County Chamber of Commerce.

Henry County Asians saw an increase of over 1,135 percent in its buying power, gaining almost $80,000 as group in the past 14 years, the Selig Center Report says.

Minorities in Henry County have received a boost through the Chamber of Commerce's micro-enterprise coalition and entrepreneurial success series, Hosford said.

"As Clayton and Henry County continue to grow, we'll have more opportunities for minority business," he said.

Hispanics in both counties also are a burgeoning market force, according to the report.

Making up 7.5 percent of the population in the last U.S. Census, Clayton County Hispanic buying power has risen over 618 percent, the Selig Center report says.

In Henry County, Hispanics comprise only 2.3 percent of the population, but saw its purchasing power increase by more than $81,000.

As minority pocketbooks grow heavier in certain areas, business will transform its marketing approach, said George Nakos, an associate professor of marketing at CCSU.

Businesses have been slow to recognize minorities as an important part of the market, he said.

But they are coming around as they enhance their services to better fit a specific segment of the poulation, Nakos said.

An upscale strip mall that has developed off Camp Creek Parkway exemplifies the way business is beginning to cater to affluent blacks, he said.

"We'll likely see more of this type of development in Clayton County and on the Southside," Nakos said.