Ensuring Economic Opportunity


Originally posted in The Rawlings-Blake Review, Issue #181

One of my top priorities is to ensure that all businesses have the opportunity to compete and succeed. My goal of growing the city by 10,000 families cannot happen without the growth of small and independent businesses that create jobs and economic opportunity for all. Our minority-owned and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) are essential for Baltimore’s growth.

In keeping with our vision of creating a business-friendly Baltimore, I designated October 28 – November 1, 2013 as Supplier Diversity and Inclusion Week in Baltimore. Activities during the week have provided a forum to recognize and strengthen small, minority-owned, and women-owned businesses. One of the anchors of Supplier Diversity and Inclusion Week was the 7th annual Top 100 MBE Awards, which highlighted some of the region’s most extraordinary MWBEs.

The Top 100 MBEs program is a region-wide effort, recognizing minority- and women-owned businesses in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, and the District of Columbia. Each of the Top 100 MBEs serves, in one way or another, as a model for success and an example of the tremendous impact that the MWBE community is having on our nation and our economy. As mayor of Baltimore, I am thrilled to congratulate the 2013 Top 100 MBEs and thank the entire regional MWBE community for their work to strengthen this pillar of a growing economy.

MWBEs are major contributors to our national, state, and local economies, which add great value to the City of Baltimore. Successful entrepreneurial undertakings like these provide jobs, promote economic growth, and diversify our economy—attracting new residents and improving the quality of life in our communities.

Minority- and women-owned businesses continue to progress and succeed against very real challenges, including disparity in access to venture capital and deal flow, as well as roadblocks in obtaining critical, timely information—particularly when it comes to government and private procurement. I understand the importance of diversity in business all too well, and I am serious about equitable inclusion.

I want Baltimore to become an entrepreneurial Mecca. I want our city to attract businesses from across the nation and around the globe, to focus on retaining and growing the businesses that we already have, and to invest in promising new ventures for Baltimore’s citizens. The City of Baltimore is committed to the success of minority- and women-owned businesses, and we are constantly working toward this goal.

Earlier this year, the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises—comprised of local business leaders and nationally-renowned experts—released its report, A New Day, A Better Way, after an extensive examination of best practices. The advisory council made bold suggestions to address fundamental obstacles in City’s MWBE program, creating a platform for the program’s future direction.

Just last month, I announced that Baltimore has been awarded a $900,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) to operate a business center that will facilitate collaborative efforts among minority-owned firms and Fortune 500 companies, broadening our MWBEs’ access to resources on a national level. The MBDA Business Center will actively work to address the under-representation of MWBE firms in the mainstream business marketplace.

To continue the work of the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises, I have formed the Mayor’s Coalition on Supplier Diversity and Inclusion. The coalition, which has already begun its work, will advise the City on matters related to inclusion and diversity and ask the tough questions that need to be addressed. They will serve as champions for business and assist with the oversight and implementation of the recommendations made by the advisory council.

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