It has been 25 years since then-President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the very first Minority Enterprise Development Week, or MED Week. Since then, every president has issued a proclamation designating a week for minority business owners to gather, speak with government officials, be honored for their achievements, and — perhaps most importantly — share ideas and innovations with one another.
At the time, minority-owned small businesses were among the fastest-growing sectors in the American economy, despite the significant challenges they faced, among them gaining access to capital and federal contracting opportunities.
This year’s MED Week conference, the largest federally sponsored event held for minority businesses each year, will be held Sept. 3-5 in Washington, D.C., at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. The event is co-hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Minority Business Development Agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The focus this year is on helping minority-owned businesses turn today’s economic challenges into opportunities by forming partnerships with enterprises domestically and overseas. The theme — “The Power of Strategic Alliances and the Global Economy” — is timely because of the opportunities international commerce offers to form partnerships and alliances, combine resources, tap into new markets, share financial risks and increase business capacity.
When minority businesses join forces with entities in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, they gain access to a larger pool of human resources and raw materials and expose their companies to new export markets, creating a larger base of customers and more room for innovation, competitiveness and growth.
MED Week provides a critical opportunity for the public and private sectors to have a continuing dialogue about the strength of our economy and the vital role of minority entrepreneurs and their firms in keeping America strong and competitive. It also offers minority entrepreneurs and business owners an opportunity to showcase their strength and to network with some of the nation’s foremost business strategists, investors, contracting officers and policymakers.
In the last 25 years, the number of minority-owned businesses in this country has nearly tripled. With more than 4 million minority firms creating jobs and opportunities, 4.7 million employees and $661 billion in annual revenues, minority-owned businesses are still among the fastest-growing sectors.
Why is that? It is largely because of their spirit of entrepreneurship, the combination of hard work and calculated risks people take to keep their businesses successful. It is also because we are all privileged to live in a nation where that kind of drive and dedication can take you anywhere, where the only thing limiting us is ourselves.
The president understands that the demographics of entrepreneurship are changing. It’s no accident that this administration has accomplished historic results for all small businesses, especially emerging market small businesses. Encouraging and helping minority-owned businesses isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do for today’s economy and for the future.
Jovita Carranza is a deputy administrator with the SBA. To learn more about MED Week or to attend one of SBA’s local events around the country, visit www.medweek.gov.
Minorities in business
- In 2002, minorities owned approximately 18 percent of the 23 million U.S. firms.
- Hispanics owned 6.6 percent of all U.S. firms, 3.7 percent of employer firms and 7.4 percent of non-employer firms.
- Blacks owned 5 percent of all U.S. firms, 1.8 percent of employer firms and 5.9 percent of non-employer firms.
- Asians and Pacific Islanders owned 4.7 percent of all U.S. firms, 6.1 percent of employer firms and 4.3 percent of non-employer firms. For comparison purposes, the percentages for Whites are 82.9, 88.0, and 81.4 respectively.
Source: U.S. Small Business Administration