30th annual Minority Enterprise Development Week kicks off Sunday
FOR MINORITIES, women or members of other historically disadvantaged groups who run businesses, leveling the playing field has always been a key goal.
As Philadelphia celebrates its 30th annual Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4, its playing field is still uneven and barriers such as inadequate capital or technical expertise remain.
To help cope with those challenges, the week will feature free workshops and panel discussions, a tour of the Philadelphia Navy Yard and an awards program.
On the bright side, there are more minority-, women- and disabled-owned businesses certified by the city than ever. A partnership that began in January 2013 between Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. (PIDC), Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses and the Community College of Philadelphia, is also giving small businesses – many of them minority- and/or women-owned – new skillsets and tools. (Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses is also a partner of MED Week.)
A report by the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) for fiscal year 2013 found that minority-, women- and disabled-owned businesses were awarded $244 million in city business, representing 28 percent of city and quasipublic contracts.
According to preliminary fiscal 2014 data, minority-, women- and disabled-owned businesses won $255 million in city business, said Angela Dowd-Burton, OEO’s executive director. She said the number of certified businesses increased from 2,175 in fiscal 2013 to 2,260 in fiscal 2014, based on prelimary data.
Mayor Nutter has set a goal of 30 percent minority-, women- and disabled-owned city business participation for the current fiscal year, which began July 1.
Dowd-Burton is hopeful that MED Week will help participants “sharpen the skills they will need in order to do business with the city, grow their businesses and take them to the next level.”
The Goldman Sachs initiative here is a $15 million investment in Philly-based small businesses – $10 million earmarked for loans and $5 million for a business-education program at CCP.
PIDC president John Grady said the program has provided about $4 million in loans to 13 local businesses. The biz-education program typically includes 100 hours of coursework during 12 weeks and is targeted toward small businesses with at least four employees, revenues of $150,000 in the past year, operating for at least two years and located in Philly. So far, 110 small-biz owners have graduated from the program, which helps them grow revenues and create jobs.
That’s important to unlocking more economic opportunity for minority businesses, said Jovan Goldstein, who’s an African-American CPA and principal of JTGoldstein Accountants & Business Advisors, a Center City firm he started in 2011 that counts the African-American Chamber of Commerce and SugarHouse Casino as clients.
“There’s opportunity here and I don’t think any doors have been shut to me,” he said. “The key to getting more business is aggressively marketing your credentials and presenting specifically what you can offer.”
The absence of such credentials can hurt minority businesses ,even when officials are committed to increasing minority participation goals.
OEO noted in its 2013 annual report that there are not enough qualified minority-, women- and disabled-owned businesses in the city that offer specific products and services required by the city, resulting in $156 million in missed contracting opportunities in fiscal 2013. Dowd-Burton said based on preliminary data that figure is likely to be $200 million fiscal 2014, and included tugboat services and a helicopter.
City officials are hopeful some of the workshops at MED Week – which include how to do business with universities, the city’s Department of Human Services and Philadelphia International Airport – will enlighten minority businesses about “what agencies are looking for in suppliers and the capabilities they need to have,” Dowd-Burton said.
For more information, visit http://www.phila.gov/commerce, or call 215-683-2057