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The Mobile Area Chamber Redefines its Minority Business Strategy

The Business View – April 2016 / On The Cover

4-2016 BV_GATFThe Mobile Area Chamber is doubling up its efforts to assist underutilized businesses by partnering with the Southern Region Minority Supplier Development Council (SRMSDC), a national organization with a regional office in New Orleans, in applying for the next Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) grant.

 

Chamber officials are confident SRMSDC will be selected to take the lead in running the Mobile MBDA Business Center (MBC), as their role as operator ended on March 31.

 

A national organization can provide additional services such as ethnic minority business certifications needed for priority consideration for certain contracts and business development services. And, maybe most importantly, with many contacts at Fortune 1000 companies SRMSDC can help to open doors to Mobile area entrepreneurs.

 

Darrell Randle, the Chamber’s vice president of small business development, highlighted the Chamber’s expertise in advising, counseling and mentoring small and minority businesses, helping them compete for large-scale projects. The Chamber also helps public and private companies develop and implement supplier diversity programs. With these programs come enhanced opportunities for Mobile’s diverse companies, explained Randle. “Ultimately, what the Chamber brings to the table is the knowledge of and relationships with the local business community,” said Randle. “And, through this new partnership with SRMSDC, we have agreed on goals that will guarantee a positive impact on our local minority-owned businesses like never before.”

 

Why the Focus on Minority Business?

Nationally, the trend of big companies diversifying their supplier base continues. “Mobile’s minority businesses should have a chance at those opportunities,” Randle said.

 

But it’s more than a trend driving local efforts. “We must increase and sustain the growth of minority-owned firms to reduce unemployment levels, increase dollars flowing into the Mobile region and build wealth throughout our community,” he adds.

 

A New Initiative

The Chamber turned in some impressive results while operating the MBC over the past decade. Since 2006, the center assisted minority-owned businesses in obtaining more than $2 billion in contracts and financial assistance and helped create or retain more than 1,111 jobs.

 

But lofty federal goals with strict requirements limited the Mobile MBC’s ability to impact local businesses. As an example, only companies with gross revenues of more than $1 million were eligible for assistance.

 

Over the years, the Chamber increased its efforts to assist the underutilized business community. Some of these successes included:

  • In 2014, the Chamber’s first vice chair of minority business development was added to its governing board of directors.
  • The Chamber and its partners offered minority businesses referrals, procurement matchmaker events, networking sessions and training workshops.
  • Since 1998, the Chamber honored more than 200 minority-owned companies through awards and recognition programs, including the annual Eagle Awards, the Rev. Wesley A. James Minority Business Advocate award, Small Business of the Month, Business Spotlight and more.

 

“But we knew more was needed to have the impact we wanted,” said Randle. In 2015, the Chamber’s Growth Alliance Task Force took on a new initiative to nurture local entrepreneurs and minority business enterprises.

 

The task force is asking questions and exchanging ideas on how to get small and disadvantaged businesses to take advantage of existing resources such as: local business resource providers, funding sources, business networks, training sessions, affordable advertising and access to corporate decision makers and mentors.

 

By year’s end, the group will have a definitive plan on how the Chamber can better serve a diverse segment of the business community. Stay tuned for more.

 

Click here to read The Business View – April 2016