by C. Daniel Baker – blackenterprise.com
The U.S. Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) and International Trade Administration (ITA) recently co-hosted a CEO Fireside Chat in recognition of the significant contributions made by minority-owned firms to the U.S. economy.
MBDA Acting National Director Alejandra Y. Castillo and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Domestic Operations Antwaun Griffin delivered remarks, followed by a panel discussion with business leaders during the event, which was also in commemoration of African American History Month.
In addition to highlighting MBDA and ITA’s commitment to helping minority entrepreneurs and business owners get access to capital, contracts, and other tools they need to succeed, the event promoted the accomplishments of distinguished African American CEOs.
Sharon T. Freeman, Ph.D., president of the All American Small Business Exporters Association (AASBEA), moderated the discussion, which featured Ronald Hall, president and chief executive officer of Bridgewater Interiors; B. Doyle Mitchell, Jr., president and CEO of Industrial Bank, N.A.; and Marie Johns, founder and president of L&L Consulting LLC.
“This event was a launching pad for a collaborated outreach effort between MBDA and ITA that will promote the commercial benefits of trade and investment to the minority business community,” said Castillo. “The U.S. had its fourth straight year of record exports, with $2.3 trillion in exports in 2013, up nearly $700 billion since 2009. So, the importance of minority-owned businesses becoming a key component of U.S. international trade has never been greater.”
The primary objective of this collaboration and the event was to introduce more minority business enterprises to the broad range of programs and services available to assist them in accessing international markets through ITA’s Global Markets unit, as well as other federal government resources. Nearly 300 people, including in person and via live-stream, heard from the panelists about the importance of international commerce and how it directly impacts the growth and development of U.S. businesses, especially minority-owned firms.
“Minority-owned firms are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. export community,” said Griffin. “That is why the ITA and MBDA strategic partnership is so important. Both our bureaus have come together to help educate minority businesses on the numerous opportunities that are available to assist them in exporting for the first time, and to help firms currently exporting to expand to new markets.”