The Crusader Newspaper Group

Creating and Supporting Black-Owned Businesses a Solution to Joblessness in Chicago

By Andrew Wells

The Chicago Urban League’s Workforce Development Director Andrew Wells recently issued the following statement in response to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) March 2017 jobs report:

“The national unemployment rate declined slightly to 4.5 percent, but African Americans, in Chicago especially, are still struggling to establish solid footing in the labor market. Illinois ended 2016 with the highest Black unemployment rate in the nation (, and this alarming rate should be cause for outrage. What’s worse, this problem won’t be solved with everyone securing typical ‘9 to 5’ employment. Most jobs today don’t pay enough to cover bills along with a cushion for savings and other opportunities to build wealth. Thankfully, there is another way to move the meter on unemployment in Chicago’s Black com- munities – entrepreneurship.

The development of Black-owned businesses continues to be a solution that can positively impact long-term employment and increase wealth in the Black community. Without question, a community’s economic empowerment is linked to entrepreneurial success. Asset building is the foundation for sustainable wealth creation. The reality is, however, that racial discrimination and other sustained obstructions, including limited access to financial, human and social capital have greatly harmed the financial prospects of the African American business community more than any other.

As the League’s Director of Entrepreneurship notes, entrepreneurs are central to solving the unemployment crisis because they create jobs in the community. They also add to the dynamic of stable neighborhoods and communities. Through our Entrepreneurship Center, the Chicago Urban League is providing the guidance, tools and access to capital for Chicagoans with dreams of ‘owning their own.’ Once a solid blueprint is in place for the business venture and capital is secured, then the opportunities for hiring come into play.

Jameal, a former client at the League, hadn’t been able to find a decent paying job for more than two years. He used his culinary skills to make ends meet by selling lunches/- dinners. At age 30, he is now in search of a small commercial space to start a restaurant, but is having trouble finding an affordable space to rent. Thankfully, he hasn’t given up and is determined to change his reality by doing what he feels is necessary to create a better life for himself and his family. Better still, when Jameal secures a location, he looks forward to providing good-paying jobs to people in his community. It then rests on all of us to support his venture and others like it to ensure that the doors stay open and more instances of economic stability are created.

Jameal represents one of many with big dreams and unwavering ambition. Support of determined young entrepreneurs with quality products is a no-brainer. The League is all in, and it is our hope more in our city will join me in supporting small businesses. And, I look forward to one day attending Jameal’s restaurant grand opening.”

Andrew J. Wells is a director for the Chicago Urban League and is a member of its senior leadership team. Andrew has been with the Chicago Urban League—a leading provider of economic development, education and social justice programming and advocacy—since 2013. At the Chicago Urban League he oversees all aspects of the Workforce Development Center and ensures the functional and financial success of programs. He has over a decade of not-for-profit experience in leadership, corporate and community relations, program management, and community development. A Chicago native, Andrew received his undergraduate degree from Roosevelt University. He is also an M.B.A candidate at Walden University.



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