Black-owned Atlanta businesses increase 99 percent in five years

Atlanta is more conducive to the black business owner, and Kamal Grant knows this as well as anyone.

A former San Diego and New York resident, Grant, 30, opened Sublime Doughnuts in Atlanta in 2008, in part because he felt the city would bring business to him.

"A lot of people have come up and congratulated me just because I opened the shop," Grant said. "They are surprised to see a young black man with his own business making doughnuts. But they support me, black and white."

Grant, who attended the Culinary Institute of America and the American Institute of Baking, is the extension of an overly successful trend. On Tuesday, the U.S. Census Bureau released figures that showed black-owned businesses in metro Atlanta grew 99 percent between 2002 and 2007.

The numbers were taken from the "Survey of Business Owners: Black-Owned Businesses: 2007," which is compiled every five years, and found metro Atlanta recorded more than 127,000 black-owned businesses in 2007, up from 64,000 in 2002.

That exceeded national figures that showed a 60.5-percent increase for black business ownership over the same period. Georgia had the second-highest number of black-owned businesses among states, trailing only New York, with more than 183,000 black-owned businesses, or 9.6 percent of the national total.

Local leaders said black business people come to Atlanta because of the city's strong black middle class, support among other black entrepreneurs and black colleges and universities.

"There are really a lot of proactive efforts to engage small businesses and entrepreneurship here," said Nancy Flake Johnson, president and chief executive officer of the Atlanta Urban League. "The political climate is supportive."

Groups such as the Urban League, the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council, Atlanta Metro Black Chamber of Commerce and Atlanta Business League have assisted these efforts.

Randy Hazelton, co-owner of Cafe Circa and The Reserve on Edgewood Avenue, said practical reasons might be at work in black business owners favoring Atlanta. He moved from Philadelphia, where a liquor license could cost $250,000; in Atlanta, it's between $8,000 and $15,000.

"You can come down here and do a lot more with a lot less," Hazelton said.