Overcoming Hurdles: The Journey of Black-Owned Restaurants

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Introduction: A Rising Tide for Black Entrepreneurs in Oregon

In recent years, the entrepreneurial spirit within Black communities across the state of Oregon has witnessed remarkable growth. A 2022 study conducted by Washington University and the University of Arkansas revealed a promising trend of increasing Black entrepreneurs throughout the region. This surge not only signifies a higher number of Black-owned businesses sprouting in Oregon but also reveals that these enterprises are generating more substantial annual revenues than ever before. Even more heartening is the revelation that this growth encompasses both larger firms and small- scale “mom-and-pop” operations. Black-owned businesses in Oregon are progressively evolving into sustainable enterprises with the potential for further development over time.

Multnomah County: A Complex Landscape

While the state of Oregon is on the upward trajectory of Black

entrepreneurship, Multnomah County, home to Portland, presents a unique and complex landscape. The recent times have posed formidable challenges for restaurant operators within this county.

Operating a restaurant in Multnomah County entails a myriad of hurdles, including lower foot traffic, vandalism, higher wages compared to other areas of the state, and increased expenses for security to ensure employees’ safety.

A Call for Equity: The Multnomah County Commissioners’ Meeting

During a Multnomah County Commissioners’ meeting, several restaurant operators shared their concerns and challenges as commissioners debated increasing health inspection fees by 30% over the next four years. Restaurant operators emphasized the difficulties of operating a restaurant in Portland, underlining issues such as lower foot traffic, security concerns, and economic disparities when compared to other regions in the state.

A Voice Unheard: Black-Owned Restaurants at the Margins

Unfortunately, during this pivotal meeting, Black-owned restaurants were notably absent from the table, and no opportunity was granted to

these businesses to address this issue or cast a vote. In a county known for its diversity, the absence of representation is glaring.

Challenges in a Post-Pandemic Landscape

The challenges faced by Black-owned restaurants in Multnomah County are further exacerbated by the post-pandemic era. The pandemic hit Black-owned restaurants disproportionately hard, compounding their struggles in an already challenging landscape.

Disparities in Funding and Financing

One of the most significant obstacles faced by Black-owned restaurants in Multnomah County and beyond is the glaring disparity in funding and financing. While Black entrepreneurs are making remarkable strides, they often lack access to the financial resources necessary to grow and sustain their businesses.

Non-Profits Aimed at Support: The MESO Dilemma

To address these disparities, agencies such as Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO) have been established as non-profit organizations designed to support Black-owned businesses in Portland. These organizations play a vital role in bridging the financial gaps. However, many of these agencies face challenges, including understaffing, which hinders their effectiveness in providing comprehensive support.

The complexities of navigating these non-profit agencies have sometimes left Black business owners frustrated, as the support they need remains elusive.

Conclusion: Paving the Path for Equity in Multnomah County

The journey of Black-owned restaurants in Multnomah County, Oregon, mirrors the broader story of Black entrepreneurship in the

state. It reflects resilience, determination, and untapped potential.

However, the path to equitable success is still laden with obstacles, from underfunding to discrimination. The recent challenges faced during the Multnomah County Commissioners’ meeting underscore the importance of representation and inclusivity in policymaking.

To ensure the success and growth of Black-owned restaurants in Multnomah County and throughout Oregon, it is imperative that organizations and institutions actively examine and address the barriers that limit growth and investment within minority-owned businesses, particularly in the context of funding and financing.

Diversity and inclusion should not be mere buzzwords but actionable strategies. Inclusivity-focused policies can drive social change and provide the much-needed support for economic development within minority communities.

The journey is ongoing, and the call to action is clear: society must recognize these disparities and actively work toward leveling the playing field for Black-owned businesses. Together, we can provide Black entrepreneurs with the support, resources, and opportunities they need to thrive and contribute to a vibrant, diverse, and equitable Multnomah County and Oregon. It is a journey that demands solidarity, inclusivity, and an unwavering commitment to the principle that every business should have an equal shot at success.

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E. D. MondainĂ© is the Economic Chair for The NAACP (AOWSAC) Alaska Oregon Washington State Area Conference. 

He is also an activist, entrepreneur, and recording artist. Founder of the Black American Chamber Of Commerce, he is also Sr. pastor of Celebration Tabernacle Church in Portland, OR and Grace Center, St. Louis, MO

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I decided to run this OpEd sent to me because if you replace Multnomah County with Southern Oregon, it’s very relevant and sometimes we miss out on learning opportunities because we filter it . JET

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