President Donald Trump’s proposed skinny budget calls for the elimination of the Minority Business Development Agency, which has for nearly 50 years been at the forefront of driving the formation and development of minority business in the United States, and its work must be able to continue.
The Minority Business Development Agency was originally established in 1969 as the Office of Minority Business Enterprise. By setting up a federal agency dedicated exclusively to minority businesses, President Richard Nixon recognized the impact of those businesses on the nation’s economy and the communities where they operated.
Over the years, many public and private organizations were established to provide technical and management assistance to minority-owned business enterprises. One of those private organizations is the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC). In its earliest days, the NMSDC received federal grants to fund minority business serving organizations around the country. The affiliate network owes much of its original funding to grants from that agency.
Minority-owned businesses have come a long way because of MBDA’s financial support and technical assistance. There were only 322,000 MBE firms when the agency was founded, and they generated revenues of $10.6 billion. By the end of 2015, there were approximately 8 million minority-owned U.S. businesses with $1.7 trillion in combined economic output.
Minority-owned businesses are indeed making measurable progress. They represent the fastest growing sector of entrepreneurs and comprise close to one-third of U.S. businesses. These businesses are an engine for job growth. Even during the recent Recession, minority-owned businesses were creating jobs at three times the rate of non-minority owned counterparts.
As we imagine a country where people of color will soon make up the population’s majority, we must give thought to what that future looks like. We know that entrepreneurship is one important route to financial, professional and personal success. We also know that entrepreneurial ventures often lead to the large companies we see today like Dell and UPS. These ventures started with a dream and today drive significant economic growth for the world.
Yet minority business owners still face significant barriers getting access to markets, opportunities and capital. These barriers are the sad legacy of prejudice and discrimination in this country. Our nation’s economic health depends on a vibrant and robust entrepreneurial community, which represents our entire nation. It will be those businesses that create future jobs, grow wages and contribute to the tax base that will drive our consumer economy as well as provide the public dollars to support the next largest group of citizens — our seniors.
This is not the time for our nation to turn its back on minority business. Now is the time to invest in the next generation of entrepreneurs. There is no other agency that focuses explicitly and exclusively on all minority-owned businesses — from the small start-up to the global billion-dollar enterprise.
Joset Wright-Lacy is CEO of the National Minority Supplier Development Council.