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Minority buying power up locally

By Justin Boron

Disposable incomes for blacks in Henry and Clayton counties continue to climb along with the state as a whole, according to this year's minority buying power report generated at the University of Georgia.

The report, which compiles state by state, minority buying power projections, shows strengthening in local minorities' “economic clout” over the past 15 years. The increase in black buying power has made Georgia one of the most “vibrant African-American” markets, according to the study.

Like its demographic makeup, Clayton County's black buying power is a stark contrast from where it was in the early 1990s when the report originated.

In 1991, blacks spent about 20 cents out of every dollar in Clayton County. This past year, they spent about 57 cents out of every dollar. Since 1991, the buying power has grown by 482.2 percent.

Market share for blacks in Henry County, which is predominantly white, has grown from 7 percent in 1991 to 21 percent. Since 1991, the net growth of black buying power is significantly less than Clayton County. But in terms of percentage, it grew by 1,422 percent.

Part of the reason for the increase may be the demographic shift that has resulted in blacks making up almost 60 percent of the Clayton County, according the most recent U.S. Census estimates.

Henry County also has seen demographic growth in blacks in recent years.

But the population influx alone doesn't account for all of the buying power increase, according to Humphreys' report.

Generally, the report says the number of blacks who are starting and expanding their own businesses also contributes to gains in buying power. Citing a Census Bureau survey entitled Survey of Minority-Owned Business Enterprises, the report says the number of black-owned firms grew four times faster than the number of all U.S. firms.

Rising levels of educational attainment also have contributed, with the proportion of blacks with high school diplomas rising by 10 percent from 1993 to 2003.

Jeff Humphreys, the director of the Selig Center for Economic Growth at UGA's Terry College of Business, said increases in buying power could ultimately mean better and cheaper goods for African Americans since the larger market share would be cheaper.

But measuring whether those benefits had been realized would require a difficult and entirely separate study, he said.

Emory Brock, Clayton County's director of economic development, said the provision higher-end goods is hit or miss.

“I'm sure there are in some places, and some areas, there really aren't,” he said.

Brock said retailers may need to do a better job marketing to the black population.

“They need to take a closer look at the market, studying it,” he said. “It's a strong market still.”

At the same time, Brock said they shouldn't overreact. He said a balanced approach to all demographic markets is needed.

Stronger buying power in minorities also could mean more diverse business ownership as well as a diversity in the types of business.

In Henry County, Kay Pippin, the executive director of the Henry County Chamber of Commerce, said the increased buying powers to create a more diverse business community.

“That's what makes communities exciting,” she said. “I only see that as a positive.”