The prophetic words uttered by Booker T. Washington just before the dawn of the 20th century have not been muted by the passage of time.
Washington, who was born on a Virginia slave plantation and went on to found the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, famously declared that a man’s level of success is measured by “the obstacles which he has overcome.”
And, as the only black man permitted to address the 1895 Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition at Piedmont Park, Washington repeatedly urged freed blacks to “cast down your bucket where you are,” rather than migrate north with hopes of escaping the discrimination that dampened their entrepreneurial dreams.
Twelve decades later, Washington’s words still resonate around town.
Every year, Black Enterprise magazine ranks America’s 100 most successful black-owned businesses in a number of categories. Based on the magazine’s research for 2016, metro Atlanta placed 15 firms on the lists.
The ranked businesses are in four categories: industrial/service (including construction and manufacturing companies, media companies, IT services and others) as well as auto dealerships, advertising and financial services.
Most of those companies are rooted in the construction, contracting and hospitality industries and headquartered in Atlanta. They’re on the industrial/service list. But the top five include an auto dealership and a financial services firm too.
Here are the five largest Atlanta-area businesses named in Black Enterprise magazine’s list of the 100 largest black-owned businesses in the US. (In reverse order.)
20) The Gourmet Cos., Atlanta
Founded originally in Charlotte, N.C. in 1975, Gourmet Services partners with major fast food franchises (Domino’s Pizza, McDonald’s, Chick-Fil-A, Planet Smoothie) to source ingredients and provides meals at a growing string of hospitals, municipalities, correctional facilities and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
CEO: Nathaniel R. Goldston lll
Industry: Food services, facilities management, concessions
Staff size: 1,050
Reported Revenue (in millions): $170.000
6) (on the financial services list) Citizens Trust Bank
Founded in 1921 on Auburn Avenue, CTB now has 10 locations in Georgia and Alabama, not including stand alone ATMs.
CEO: Cynthia N. Day
Industry: Financial services and insurance.
Staff size: 97
Reported Assets (in millions): 388.620
9) (on the auto list) The Baran Company L.L.C. (Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead)
Power couple gregory and Juanita Baranco founded their first car dealership in 1978. All their hard work culminated in the very successful Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead dealership.
CEO: Gregory Baranco
Industry: Auto dealerships
Staff size: 206
Reported Revenue (in millions) 222.497
13) H.J. Russell & Co., Atlanta
Founded in 1952, H.J. Russell is a world-renowned standard bearer for commercial and residential real estate development, general construction and property management. Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park, Woodruff Library, History Center, Symphony Hall, Georgia Aquarium and 12 area Target stores bear the marks of H.J. Russell’s expertise.
CEO: Michael B. Russell
Industry: Construction, real estate, and food concessions
Staff size: 1,344
Reported Revenue (in millions): $241.950
3) (on the auto list) Wade Ford Inc.
Founded in 1933, Wade Ford is the only Motor Trend Certified dealership in the metro area. CEO Steve Ewing bought the dealership in 2002.
CEO: Steve Ewing
Industry: Auto dealerships
Staff size: 115
Reported revenue (in millions): 553.531