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Last Updated: 08/01/23

Chicago’s Business Smart Week

In recorded remarks, Austan D. Goolsbee, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, welcomes participants to ­­­­Chicago’s Business Smart Week, a Chicago Fed event designed to provide diverse and small businesses with tools and opportunities to grow.

Hello, I'm Austan Goolsbee, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and it is my pleasure to welcome you to the Chicago Fed’s tenth annual Business Smart Week. As our signature supplier diversity event, Business Smart Week serves as a valuable resource to small business and diverse business owners across the region. Each year we offer a range of expert-led sessions to help you develop the tools and networks you need to better manage and expand your operations.

At the Chicago Fed, we are deeply committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion at all levels of our organization. In addition to our recruiting, career development, economic research, and community volunteering efforts, supplier diversity is an essential part of our vision of fostering a healthy, stable, and inclusive economy and a financial system where everyone has an opportunity to thrive. We strive to integrate supplier diversity into our processes, grow our spending with these firms, and embrace industry best practices to drive a culture of continuous improvement.

Over the last five years, we've successfully achieved a bank-wide diverse spend that has exceeded 20%. Appropriately, the theme of Business Smart Week 2023 is Business Equity: Inclusion—The Pathway Forward.

The pandemic hit minority-owned businesses and communities hard. But in the recovery from Covid there have been some hopeful signs that a strong economic recovery could help to support a thriving minority-owned business community and to narrow inequities. Despite some improvements in revenues and employment, though, we know there are still many challenges to overcome. Minority-owned businesses continue to report greater difficulty accessing credit, for example.

And while the pandemic spurred the creation of new businesses, the rates of minority entrepreneurship, especially Black-owned businesses, are still low. According to a 2022 Brookings Institution report1 co-authored by our own Kristen Broady, now director of the Chicago Fed's Economic Mobility Project, African Americans make up 14% of the U.S. population but only account for about 2.3% of owners of firms with employees.

This year's Business Smart Week programming will feature discussions with prominent diverse business owners and corporate CEOs on ways to eliminate barriers to minority business growth. Among the many topics are access to sustainable capital resources and ways certification can boost your business, and you'll hear about significant contracting opportunities with entities like the CTA and its Red Line expansion or the Big Ten Conference—which as of 2024 will have 16 schools in it. But that's a whole different thing.

On behalf of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, I would like to thank all of our speakers, our panelists, and our attendees for bringing your time and your expertise to these critical issues. And I want to give special thanks to Mark Hands, the Chicago Fed’s director of supplier diversity, for his many years of deep engagement and leadership. Thank you all for attending today and for all that you do to support our communities.


1 Perry et al. (2022).


Perry, Andre M., Regina Seo, Anthony Barr, Carl Romer, and Kristen Broady, 2022, "Black-owned businesses in U.S. cities: The challenges, solutions, and opportunities for prosperity," Brookings Institution, Brookings Metro report, February 14, available online.

The views expressed today are my own and not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve System or the FOMC.

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