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Conference in Review: How Mayors are Accelerating Minority Business Growth and Economic Equity

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The 2023 NMSDC Annual Conference & Exchange and Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) National Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week, organized collaboratively by NMSDC and the MBDA, was held at the Baltimore Convention Center Oct.22-25. The gathering brought together mayors and high-level federal partners to deliberate on the ramifications of recent legislation concerning contracting opportunities for minority-owned businesses. The conversation centered around four principal objectives:

  1. Analyzing the impact of recent legislation on contracting opportunities for minority-owned businesses.
  2. Sharing best practices and innovative strategies among mayors.
  3. Discussing the role of mayors as leaders in nurturing diverse-owned businesses.
  4. Encouraging collaboration and the exchange of knowledge among city leaders.

Challenges and Strategies

The mayor roundtable discussion emphasized the role of mayors as civil rights leaders and advocates while shedding light on the significant obstacles that minority-owned businesses encounter when seeking contracts with local governments, including accessing capital, technical support, and competing with larger market players. The mayor roundtable presented various strategies and alliances aimed at addressing these challenges, emphasizing the importance of implementing universal certification and streamlining application procedures.

Several mayors highlighted the need for direct access to federal funds and a simplified process for the allocation of resources. They emphasized the necessity for the federal government to provide funding directly to cities, without the need for competitive grants, to ensure equitable distribution of resources. The importance of establishing rules and standards at the governmental level to direct funds to minority communities was also underscored, with an emphasis on creating policies that extend beyond the present and are inclusive of all cities, regardless of local government alliances.

Key to ensuring these challenges are met while enhancing support for minority businesses, the mayors and other participants emphasized the importance of collaborative efforts between the public and private sectors.

NMSDC CEO and President Ying McGuire further stressed the necessity of forging partnerships with local governments to streamline the NMSDC certification process. Additionally, McGuire and the other participants underscored the challenges posed by recent legal decisions regarding diversity and advocated for the implementation of a universal certification system for minority businesses to optimize resource allocation for growth.

Subsequently, Under Secretary Don Cravins of the MBDA provided an overview of significant legislative measures, such as the American Rescue Plan (ARP), Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), CHIPS and Science Act (CHIPS), and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The discussion emphasized the crucial role of these laws in broadening contracting opportunities for minority-owned businesses.

Success and Path Forward

The insights shared during the roundtable discussion provide a blueprint for other cities and mayors to prioritize contracting opportunities for minority-owned businesses. The collaborative efforts demonstrated during the event highlight the importance of fostering a supportive ecosystem that enables minority-owned businesses to thrive and contribute to the overall economic growth of their communities.

Examples of Initiatives and Programs

  1. MBDA Advanced Manufacturing Center: Opened in Baltimore, the center allows local entrepreneurs to showcase their products, fostering innovation and economic growth.
  2. St. Louis Economic Empowerment Center: Established at Sumner High School, the center connects businesses to resources, and technical assistance, and introduces them to potential contractors, fostering business growth and development.
  3. Infrastructure Improvement Initiatives: Several cities utilized federal funds to invest in infrastructure, such as water management and transportation, creating job opportunities and stimulating economic growth in their communities.

Key Strategic Priorities

  1. Access to Capital: Cities provided grants and low-interest loans to support minority-owned businesses and help them scale up their operations.
  2. Competitive Application Processes: Mayors worked on making application processes more user-friendly and efficient to ensure fair competition for contracts without disadvantaging smaller cities.
  3. Streamlining Access to Funding: Cities emphasized the need for a more transparent and accessible process for accessing federal funding, advocating for direct funding to cities without requiring competitive applications.

Moving forward, NMSDC will continue to pursue avenues for equitable implementation of the Invest in America agenda insofar as it relates to our efforts to reduce and eliminate the racial wealth gap. Using the Build Up Local platform created in partnership with the National Urban League and Public Private Strategies Institute, NMSDC will continue to work towards:

  1. Enhancing Contracting Opportunities.
  2. Maintaining Accountability.
  3. Generating Employment.
  4. Fostering Economic Growth.
  5. Stimulating Innovation.

We will continue to work alongside federal agencies to make sure they remain committed and accountable to their goals to uphold racial equity while bridging the gap between these agencies and contract-ready minority-owned businesses seeking federal contracts. At our next Minority Business Economic Forum taking place in Seattle May 14 -16,  2024, we will continue to foster meaningful dialogue that explores innovative strategies for addressing and overcoming the unique challenges confronted by minority-owned businesses.