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The correlation between integration and successful Black-owned businesses

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Posted at 1:22 PM, Feb 21, 2023

Port St. Lucie, Florida isn't just one of the most racially integrated cities in the country, it is also one of the most successful cities in America for Black-owned businesses.

According to Brookings, Black businesses in the area pay higher average salaries than any other region in America.

“Port St. Lucie is really the perfect experiment of what America should be,” said Larry Lee.

The Othering and Belonging Institute out of Berkeley used Census data to determine where people of different races lived in more than a hundred American cities. Every city was considered to some degree segregated, except for two: Colorado Springs and Port St. Lucie.

“You have no Black community, you have no Hispanic community, no white community. They don’t even have a downtown,” Lee said.

Get past the coast, and Port St. Lucie is a standard mid-sized Florida city. It’s also a young city, barely sixty years old. Because of that, it eluded the systemic and segregationist housing policies that affect most cities today.

“There was nobody to say, ‘You cannot move in here.’ If you had the money, you could do it,” said Al Johnson.

Just north of Fort St. Lucie is Fort Pierce. It’s older and didn’t avoid systemic segregation. The remnants and struggles still exist.

“It’s a food desert. It’s a health desert. People that come through our doors, they consider themselves the underdog,” said Canieria Gardner, who runs the Incubate Leadership Center, where rising Black entrepreneurs converse, record, and build their brands.

Lee and Johnson run businesses in Fort Pierce Port St. Lucie, which they note isn't perfect.

Port St. Lucie has never elected a Black city council member. The region hadn’t elected a single Black state representative until Lee in 2012. But unlike those sunrises on the ocean, excellence is never inevitable. In this city, it is the result of effort, integration and a rising tide lifting all business.

“People know our heart. They know our concern for people, regardless of your race, creed, or color, that we're going to do the right thing,” Lee said.