MINORITY BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT AGENCY

Established in 1969 by executive order, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) works to foster the creation, growth, and expansion of minority-owned businesses in the United States as a part of the Department of Commerce. The agency was originally called the Office of Minority Business Enterprise (OMBE), but its name was changed to its current incarnation in 1979.

The MBDA describes its mission as one of several facets, including 1) coordination of federal government plans, programs, and operations that affect minority business enterprises; 2) promotion and coordination of activities of government and private organizations that help minority businesses grow; 3) collection and dissemination of information that will help those interested in establishing or expanding a successful minority-owned firm; and 4) funding organizations to provide management and technical assistance to minority entrepreneurs. A wide range of individuals are eligible for MBDA assistance, including Hispanic Americans, Asian and Pacific Island Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Americans, African Americans, and Hasidic Jews.

The Minority Business Development Agency's primary headquarters are located in Washington, D.C., but it also maintains five regional offices (in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New York, and San Francisco) and four district offices (in Miami, Boston, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles), as well as a group of local community-based outreach centers across the country. The centers are generally ensconced in regions that feature a large concentration of minority populations and large numbers of minority-owned businesses. These facilities include Minority Business Development Centers (MBDC), Native American Business Development Centers (NABDC), Business Resource Centers (BRC), and Minority Business Opportunity Committees (MBOC) that offer a variety of programs to assist minority entrepreneurs, including providing one-on-one assistance in writing business plans, marketing, management assistance, technical assistance, financial planning, and securing financing for business ventures. While these centers provide minority entrepreneurs with help in locating sources of financing and preparing loan proposals, they do not have any authority to make grants, loans, or loan guarantees to any qualified businessperson who wishes to purchase, start, or expand a small business. These centers are operated by private firms, government agencies (both state and local), educational institutions, and Native American tribes.

In recent years, the MBDA has also shown an increased emphasis on making certain that minority entrepreneurs are able to compete in the international marketplace. In 1992, for instance, it entered into an agreement with the International Trade Administration (ITA) to assist American minority entrepreneurs in their efforts to negotiate exporting hurdles and compete in foreign markets. Shortly after consummating this agreement, the MBDA launched its International Trade Initiative, which, according to Business America's Linda L. Richardson, "closes the information gap for minority-owned firms having no direct knowledge or experience of exporting. The Agency's services initiatives provide basic data—export marketing plans, potential markets, trade leads, and technical assistance—to assist minority-owned firms in becoming 'export-ready' and to profit from the export assistance services provided by the U.S. Commercial Service." In addition, the MBDA has organized several "Development Matchmakers" delegations of minority business owners to foreign destinations. Minority-owned firms participating in the trade delegations have hailed from a wide range of industries, from medical supplies and waste management to retail, clothing manufacturing, engineering, and architecture sectors. "In addition to practical information on how to do business overseas, the program puts Matchmaker participants in direct contact with prospective business partners, prescreened by the Commerce Department's overseas commercial staff," noted Business America contributor Judy Riendeau. "Matchmakers are extremely cost competitive, and offer an excellent way to develop contacts with others in the minority business community. The synergies created by being part of a 30-member delegation make Matchmaker an ideal vehicle for companies to exchange information about business opportunities in the United States, as well as other overseas markets of interest."

For more information on MBDA programs, minority entrepreneurs can contact the agency at its headquarters in Washington, DC or via the Internet (www.mbda.gov).

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