Growth Amid Uncertainty --> At MED Week, federal officials discussed ways for minority entrepreneurs to expand their companies in the aftermath of September 11.
"Strategies for Growth in the American Economy" was the theme for this year's MED Week, the national gathering of minority entrepreneurs in Washington, D.C. During the event, talk of business expansion mixed with concern about economic and global turbulence.
"We mourn the tragic loss of life and struggle with the uncertainties brought about by the attack on our country on September 11," Commerce Secretary Don Evans told MED Week participants. "The [terrorist] actions were, no doubt, calculated to add instability to our economic structures, and we won't let that happen. We must focus on strategies that are centered on growth, and the surest route to a more stable economic environment for all nations is greater openness to the world market. I want you to look beyond borders and oceans to the prospects for your businesses in the global marketplace."
Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week is organized by the Small Business Administration's Office of Government Contracting and Business Development, and the Department of Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), which is the only federal agency established to assist minority-owned businesses. MED Week is the largest federally sponsored gathering for minority businesses.
The leading proponent of trade promotion authority (TPA) in the Bush administration, Mr. Evans urged conferees to expand their exporting capabilities. "More than 20 percent of the goods produced in the United States and approximately 12 million U.S. jobs are supported by exports," he said. "Minority-owned businesses contribute an estimated $591 billion to the U.S. economy. Yet only 35,000 minority firms export. This number is much too low."
Mr. Evans also unveiled a revamped MBDA Web site (www.mbda.gov), which allows minority firms to register online for contracting opportunities. MBDA officials use the information to match businesses with sales opportunities. Among other things, the site allows businesses to locate opportunities within their own region.
The Bush administration's budget for MDBA includes $750,000 for the Web site, part of an effort to get companies online. "A recent study shows that only 13 percent of minority firms use the Internet to conduct business," Mr. Evans pointed out. "That number has to be improved."
Industry-specific sessions for MED Week participants addressed two key areas for minority businesses – the utility and automotive sectors. In the utility market, for instance, 50 percent of industry revenues are in the 10 states with significant minority populations, and that figure is expected to skyrocket in the next few years as plants upgrade to meet new demand.
In the automotive sector, although forecasts call for a slowdown in sales compared to last year, the number of minority consumers is expected to account for a major portion of revenues in the future.
The conference concluded with awards honoring businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Irma Tuder, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico as a young girl, went on to create a government contracting business plan for minority businesses as part of her MBA thesis. She founded Analytical Services Inc. (ASI) in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1992 and has since expanded the company to 16 locations across the United States and Puerto Rico.
ASI was named one of three award winners in the Minority Small Business Firms category. "For the first time, we have a three-way tie for the National Minority Small Business Firm of the Year," announced SBA Administrator Hector Barreto. "What a great indication of the strength of the American minority small-business community! We're here today to celebrate the successes of these firms, which contribute significantly to the success of our economy."
Regional Minority Small Business Persons of the Year included Martin Mercado, president of Mercado Construction in Albuquerque, and Miguel Garcia, president of MG Construction in Salem, Oregon. For more information on the MBDA or MED Week, visit www.mbda.gov.
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