Conference Examines Changing Environment in Government and Its Impact on Minority Suppliers

In October, I participated on a panel at the national conference of the National Minority Supplier Development Council in San Antonio, Texas. The two-hour panel examined the changing environment in government and its impact on minority suppliers.

The Council promotes business opportunities for its 16,000 certified minority-owned businesses (mostly small), and connects them to its 3,500 corporate members. These include most of America’s largest companies, plus universities and other buying institutions. The importance of the minority business sector to overall health of the American economy should not be overlooked. Data shows that minority-owned firms are increasing in actual numbers and the amount of gross receipts. They are also creating jobs at a faster pace than non-minority businesses in a wide range of industries including professional, scientific and technical services, health care and social assistance, and construction. As these firms grow and build capacity the positive economic effects will be seen not only in minority communities but the country as a whole.

Other individuals on the panel included:

  • Gloria Pualan, director of Small Business Liaison/Socio-Economic Business Programs, Northrup Grumman;
  • Janice Williams-Hopkins, purchasing & supply management specialist for the U.S. Postal Service; and
  • David Hinson, national director of the Minority Business Development Agency at the U.S. Department of Commerce

While each speaker discussed their individual programs, the main takeaways from the panel included:

  • Government remains the largest purchaser of goods and services in the world. It has goals for doing business with small disadvantaged businesses. These goals should help increase opportunities for small and minority-owned businesses.
  • Prime contractors seem to be increasingly willing to examine unique partnering opportunities with minority businesses to work on government contracts.
  • The amount of help for small minority-owned businesses and subcontractors is growing. This is happening through the growth of mentor-protégée programs sponsored by government and corporations or prime contractors, as well as via other MBDA and SBA programs.

There was great information provided to attendees about the benefits of the federal government both as a customer and a resource to build their businesses. The Office of Advocacy is one of these resources. As the independent voice for small business within the federal government, we help small businesses by reviewing regulations before they become final and by performing and promoting economic research on small business and the economy. In addition, Advocacy’s Innovation Initiative is a project where we seek input from the innovation ecosystem on the challenges in starting and growing innovation businesses as well as solutions to these challenges.

I was glad for the opportunity to reach out to a traditionally underserved, yet growing, business sector.

Mark Harrison, Entrepreneur-in-Residence