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Black business owners see challenges in beauty, hair markets

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(The Center Square) – The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is working on a taxpayer-funded disparity study that evaluates demographic data at the supplier and distribution level for retailers of beauty and hair products, if House Bill 5232 passes the Senate like it did the House.

Ronald and Latasha Fields own 3rd Phase barbershop, which is in South Chicago.

Ronald Fields said there are barriers for Blacks to get into the hair industry without the middleman. Fields said that major hair product manufacturers won’t sell directly to him unless he has $100,000.

“They told me if I didn’t have the $100,000, then I had to go through a middleman, which is some sort of distribution union. You have to buy from them instead of buying straight from the company,” said Ronald Fields. “If you do that [buy from the distribution union], that will cause your prices to skyrocket.”

Ronald Fields said the state picks winners and losers when lawmakers decide who to give tax credits to.

Other states, like Missouri, are ending tax credit systems. Meanwhile, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has defended the tax credit system in Illinois. Legislators are set to return Tuesday for the final weeks of session to vote on a slew of bills giving tax credits to certain industries.

State Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Dieterich, voted no on the measure and called House Bill 5232 “another DEI bill introduced to pick winners and losers in the marketplace.”

The Fields are hopeful that a new taxpayer-funded study will bring awareness that will eventually lead to something being done to bring more economic opportunities to the Black community.

The couple said they see Black-owned hair businesses in Chicago trying to make it but they can’t compete because the government is picking favorites.

Latasha Fields said the Black community can’t sell their own products. Ronald Fields, who has been a stylist for over 20 years, said the problem is they can’t buy combs and clippers straight from the manufacturers.

“There’s different supply houses that are connected to these major manufacturers that require a certain amount of money to buy from them to make the price cheaper.” said Ronald.

Ronald Fields said a lot of the hair salons and barbershops in Chicago go to supply houses to get their products.

“The supply houses, obviously, broke the $100,000 barrier,” said Ronald Fields. “How are they able to open up these beauty supply stores?”

The bill creating the demographic data study says it is to be published by the DCEO by 2027.The study is subject to appropriation, there’s no information regarding the cost that would come to taxpayers to conduct the study.