News Column

Sen. Warner Touts Minority Businesses Support

May 4, 2013
mark warner, virginia, diversity

Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., urged Virginia to do more business with small businesses owned by women and minorities.

"If you add together women and people of color in Virginia, we are talking about 80 percent of Virginians," Warner told those attending a global trade expo Friday at the Richmond Marriott Hotel. The event was hosted by the Virginia Department of Minority Business Enterprise, the Virginia Asian Advisory Board, and the Virginia Latino Advisory Board.

"To make sure that Virginia's business community represents more of that face of Virginia is just the economically smart thing to do," he said.

In his last year as governor, Warner said he started receiving weekly reports from every state agency on how much business they were doing with small businesses owned by women and minorities.

"We also had a state purchasing pool that allowed these businesses to get access to some of the contracts that maybe in the past just went to the big guys. We need to make sure that everybody gets a fair shot at accessing those opportunities," Warner said.

Yielding business to these groups also helps long-term economic prosperity to continue while saving the taxpayers money, Warner said.

The senator was the first high-profile guest speaker at the two-day Global Network Expo. Gov. Bob McDonnell spoke in the evening.

"This event is unique because it is an opportunity to develop a connection between business and culture," said Vicki Mirandah, chairwoman of the Virginia Asian Advisory Board.

A Latino International Trade and Business Summit kicked off the expo Friday with more than 200 guests from all across the state, followed by the Que Pasa? Festival and the 16th annual Asian American Celebration hosted today.

Michel Zajur, CEO of the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the Virginia Latino Advisory Board, called the event historic for Richmond, because the city isn't known as an international hub.

"We live in a global society, and Richmond is going to grow," Zajur said.

Warner said that the state must take advantage of all trade and export opportunities.

"About 95 percent of all new business opportunities are going to come from trade opportunities," Warner said.

"We're in a relatively mature market in America. We have to find a way to make it easier for us to access the billions of people around the world who might be able to buy our goods and services."

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