The statistics are startling. According to a report from the Brookings Institution, the net worth of a typical white family in the U.S. is nearly ten times greater than that of a Black family. “Gaps in wealth between Black and white households reveal the effects of accumulated inequality and discrimination, as well as differences in power and opportunity that can be traced back to this nation’s inception,” the report states. “The Black-white wealth gap reflects a society that has not and does not afford equality of opportunity to all its citizens.”
Now, as Black History Month kicks off, Amgen and a number of other leading companies have joined forces to help close this wealth gap by investing a total of $1.45 billion in “Project Black,” a fund that will be managed by Ariel Alternatives, the private equity subsidiary of Ariel Investments, the first Black-owned investment management firm in the U.S. The fund will invest in companies with revenues between $100 million and $1 billion that are not currently minority owned, as well as existing Black-, Latina- and Latino-owned businesses. Under the fund’s ownership, these companies are expected to be transformed into certified minority business enterprises of scale that can serve as top-tier vendors to the Fortune 500. In addition, these companies are poised to be employers of minority talent and serve overlooked communities.
“Our $150 million investment in Project Black reflects our commitment to minority-owned businesses,” said Amgen CEO Bob Bradway. “These businesses have all too often lacked access to the capital they need to flourish. Project Black is an important step toward levelling the playing field.”
“We chose to partner with large institutions that are positioned to drive widespread corporate vendor diversity,” said Project Black Co-Founders Les Brun, Chairman and CEO of Ariel Alternatives, and Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO and President of Ariel Investments. “Our goal is to help close the racial wealth gap by creating minority-owned businesses of scale through access to both capital and customers. In success, we will redefine what it means to be a Black-, Latina- or Latino-owned business in the United States. We are grateful to our investors, who share our vision.”
In 2020, Amgen set a goal to double its 2019 spend with diverse suppliers in the U.S. and triple its spend with Black-owned businesses by 2023. Also in 2020, Amgen became a founding member of OneTen, a coalition of companies collectively seeking to hire one million Black Americans into good-paying jobs over the next ten years. Amgen is currently investing approximately $1 billion to build two new manufacturing facilities in the U.S. – one near Columbus, Ohio, the other in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina – with both sites chosen, in part, because of their ready access to diverse talent.
Over the past three decades, the Amgen Foundation has invested more than $200 million to inspire the next generation of innovators by bringing high-quality, no-cost science education programs to millions of young people around the world, with a particular focus on reaching disadvantaged students. Since 2020, the Amgen Foundation has also made $11.5 million in grants to more than 50 organizations that are advancing social justice across the U.S.
To learn more about Project Black, please visit arielalternatives.com.