I read with keen interest the MoCo 360 article on Feb. 27 spotlighting the role of the Black dollar and Black-owned businesses in Montgomery County, highlighting the work of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corp. (MCEDC).
Gov. Wes Moore (D) campaigned on initiatives related to increased minority business, then revealed in his first budget funding that will support the pillars to create a more competitive and equitable economy. The proposed Innovation Economy Infrastructure Act is budgeted to receive $10 million to incentivize business creation and expansion, including $2 million in grants to help expand the technology sector.
State and local officials are increasingly working to require agencies to report data to assess Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) programs as a step toward ensuring that small, minority and women business owners have the opportunity to contribute to a stronger economy.
According to an Executive Order by Gov. Moore signed on Feb. 16, , “In 2013, Maryland established a 29% Minority Business Enterprise participation goal in all qualifying procurement expenditures, which the state has consistently failed to meet.” Likewise, the county assists minority, female and disabled (MFD) businesses in gaining access to contractor and subcontractor opportunities with local agencies.
Black entrepreneurs need access to critical information as a start-up or emerging business, one-stop and first-stop portals, synchronizing registrations across departments and counties, and long-term one-on-one support for those struggling to navigate the business development system.
MCEDC highlights their role in addressing disparities, however, there is a broader business development ecosystem in the county creating more stable and nimble entrepreneurs. The MCEDC and the Business Center team in the County Executive’s office, is extending resources and collaborations to community organizations that help fill the gaps in ensuring Black entrepreneurs have multiple access points of entry to obtain training, coaching, technical assistance and yes, sometimes the hand-holding from a coach or consultant to achieve an indicator the owner has set to building their business.
The Montgomery County Black Collective is a proud partner of the MCEDC and uses the power of that partnership to ensure all businesses will have access on demand to detailed information to start and grow a business.
We are offering small cohort coaching over 16 weeks to minority companies and MCEDC is one of our most important partners, having invested in ensuring that we give those businesses the one-on-one time needed to dig deeper into their needs and find solutions, and then make sure there is follow up with complimentary time with subject matter experts. The county government has made a significant investment, and a partner organization, the Minority Business Council, is building a database of Black business owners.
Other partners critical to accelerating the life-cycle of Black businesses are the Maryland Black Chamber of Commerce, with an extensive portfolio of training and access to procurement officers throughout the county.
Our colleagues at the Latino Economic Development Corporation and private industry partners offer accelerator programs and small business loan programs that help businesses that don’t have the social capital or financial resources for expansion.
The M&T Accelerator program offers small, female and minority businesses owners the business operations training needed to ensure they have a sound structure from which to grow. A rising tide helps all boats, and it is worth noting that the public and private sectors in the County are working to build, promote and expand exposure to Black and other minority businesses.
Building on this extensive network of support and exposure for Black businesses allows each public, private and third-sector provider to play a role in making sure Montgomery County is open for business to all entrepreneurs.
Kim Jones is the executive director of the Montgomery County Black Collective.
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