The state of black business in Austin

When it comes to the state of black businesses in Austin one community activist believes more can be done to attract and accommodate black entrepreneurs.

Austin is one of America's fastest growing cities, but its black population continues to shrink.

“Austin historically has had a bad rap for African-Americans. People come here and they leave,” Nelson Linder, NAACP president, said.

Linder has lived here for more than 30 years. He's seen the ups and downs of the city.

“Austin has some issues dealing with black people that haven't been dealt with,” he said.

With the shrinking black population at hand, the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce is trying to recruit and retain black businesses every chance they get.

“Quality of recruitment will increase over the years as we institute programming, not just with our chamber but the city as a whole. It's an issue we're all concerned about,” Tam Hawkins, interim president, said.

The chamber continues to hold recruitment events, sometimes even leaving the country.

“The last major one was in Toronto. So we go all the time and we partner with the Convention Visitors Bureau, Hawkins said.

When it comes to the root of the problem, community leaders think it's a mixture of things.

“There's a culture problem in Austin, there's an issue with economic empowerment of African-Americans. There's also racism, this city has a history of racism,” Linder said.

Hawkins believes Austin can be a great place to live for people of all colors but it's going to take a lot for potential black employees and entrepreneurs to realize that.

“I think there's a misperception. I think a lot has been highlighted on a negative impact of growth with numbers for African-Americans,” Hawkins said.

Linder hopes the city can continue to grow and attract people from all backgrounds, but he feels lots of work needs to be done.

“How do we make the city more accommodating? A lot has to change,” Linder said.

The black chamber will be involved in South by Southwest. They held a "Blacks in Tech" community meeting on Feb. 25.

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