MBDA Under Secretary Don Cravins Jr. reflect on 2023 accomplishments

The year 2023 marked a historic year for the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). It was a year of accomplishments guided by the vision of the Minority Business Development Act of 2021, which elevated the Minority Business Development Agency as a leader in the Federal Government and affirmed equity in business as a national priority.


This year, MBDA turned that vision into a reality by strengthening our core, expanding our reach, and elevating our voice. In 2023, we grew our staff to address gaps, expanded our National Network from 88 to 131 Business Centers and programs, increased our reach in rural communities, and launched the Capital Readiness Program, the largest technical assistance program of its kind.


MBDA can only accomplish its mission by being present in the communities we serve. That is why, in 2023 I visited 32 towns and cities across America, meeting MBDA business center operators, entrepreneurs, and stakeholders to better understand the challenges they face. Our MBDA National Network showed up in the same way, helping businesses secure over $1.2 billion in capital, over $1.6 billion in contracts, and nearly $300 million in export deals.


MBDA’s ultimate goal, however, is to build something that lasts. In addition to working to help today’s businesses, we are laying the foundation for future businesses to succeed without systemic challenges holding them back.


To everyone who helped MBDA reach this point, thank you. And to America’s minority business enterprises, underserved businesses, future entrepreneurs, and every American eager to achieve our Nation’s full potential, we will continue doing our part to create an economy that gives every one of you a shot at building a successful business.


Strengthening MBDA’s staff

Since October 2022, MBDA has more than doubled its staff, bringing on talented, experienced leaders and business development experts to fulfill the Agency’s elevated mission. Additions include MBDA’s first-ever Deputy Under Secretary and dozens of other critical team members.


The Capital Readiness Program is OPEN FOR BUSINESS!

The Biden-Harris Administration put its faith in MBDA to be the Federal Government’s leading voice for minority business enterprises. That is most evident in MBDA’s launch of the Capital Readiness Program, the largest-ever direct Federal Investment in small business incubators and accelerators of its kind.


In August 2023, Vice President Kamala Harris and Under Secretary Cravins announced the forty-three winners of the Capital Readiness Grant Program Funding Competition.

Through the Capital Readiness Program, MBDA is launching forty-three business incubators and accelerators designed to help minority and other underserved entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses. Incubators provide services that help new entrepreneurs and startup businesses. Accelerators help emerging businesses who are ready to take the next step.


The primary purpose of the Capital Readiness Program is to prepare business owners to secure capital from the State Small Business Credit Initiative, which is a ten-billion-dollar fund designed to drive new lending and investment to small businesses in towns across America.


The Capital Readiness Program marks the largest-ever expansion of MBDA’s National Network, growing the Agency’s reach from 88 to 131 business centers and other technical assistance centers.


Reaching rural communities

MBDA understands that minority business communities do not exist only in our Nation’s urban centers. From Appalachia to the Valley of the Sun in Arizona, rural minority businesses are fueling local economies and driving their communities forward. However, they face unique challenges that need to be met with support and resources.


This year, MBDA awarded $5.7 million to 21 of our business centers to expand their technical assistance outreach and services in rural communities. This expansion includes increasing accessibility to broadband internet and its adoption, as well as improving digital literacy skills, leveraging e-commerce, securing financial capital, securing public and private contracts, facilitating entrepreneurship in rural areas, creating jobs in rural areas, and more.


MBDA Business Center performance

In Fiscal Year 2023 (October 2022 – September 2023), MBDA helped businesses:

·      secure over $1.2 billion in capital

·      secure over $1.6 billion in contracts, private and government

·      secure nearly $300 million in export transactions

·      create/retain over 14,000 jobs.


Building alliances to expand reach

The Minority Business Development Act mandates MBDA lead Federal coordination efforts promoting equitable access and opportunities for MBEs across both the public and private sectors. To do that effectively, MBDA has prioritized working with Federal Agencies and private sector organizations to expand our collective reach and impact in support of the Nation’s MBEs. MBDA is fulfilling that mandate with the Agency’s Memorandums of Understandings (MOUs) and collaborations with the following Federal Agencies and organizations:

·      Department of Energy

·      National Aeronautic Space Administration (NASA)

·      Public Private Strategies Institute (PPSI)

·      National Alliance of Black Businesses

·      The fraternities of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, also known as The Divine Nine

·      100 Black Men of America


Through these collaborations, we are working closely with these Departments and organizations to prepare MBEs to secure Federal contracts and subcontracts, bolster outreach efforts, share data and reporting tools, and develop underrepresented minority businesses in national supply chains.


The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, and more, are delivering trillions of dollars to the American people through additional contracting opportunities at the state and local level. We are rebuilding our roads, bridges, airports, and ports, we are making internet for all a reality and we are revitalizing domestic manufacturing by making America the global semiconductor leader.


All this investment has the potential to drastically change our communities across the entire Nation, which is good for everyone. MBDA is at the table, ensuring all businesses can participate.


First Annual Access to Capital Forum, Procurement Forum and Trade Forum

Access to Capital Fourm

In June 2023, MBDA held its first annual Access to Capital Forum. The Minority Business Development Act mandated MBDA conduct an annual forum dedicated to the state of access to capital in our country. The goal of this forum was to review the status of problems and programs relating to capital formation by minority business enterprises.


And though the mandate required MBDA to hold a forum related specifically to capital access, I also thought it important to hold similar forums for access to contracts, as well as access to trade and global markets. During these three forums, all of which were held this summer, MBDA was able to bring together some of the brightest minds and leaders across the business ecosystem to formally discuss the minority business community’s most pressing challenges and the solutions needed to solve those challenges.


Going Global for Minority Business Growth - Kenya Trade Mission

The MBDA’s mission is the growth and global competitiveness of MBEs. Our work cannot be limited to within our borders. Access to global markets is key to driving economic growth for our entire Nation, especially because America’s minority-owned businesses are uniquely positioned to succeed in global markets.


In March 2023, I led a trade delegation of about a dozen American businesses to Kenya. We met with African government and business leaders to foster economic collaboration and partnerships between our countries. We explored opportunities in healthcare, technology, and infrastructure industries and discussed solutions to strengthen supply chains and create jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.


Making History - 40th Anniversary Minority Enterprise Development Week (MED Week)

MED Week 2023

In October 2023, the Nation celebrated the 40th Annual National Minority Enterprise Development Week (MED Week) to recognize the achievements and contributions of minority business owners and enterprises and promote economic equality.

In commitment to expanding the Agency’s reach and impact for MBEs, MBDA collaborated with the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) NMSDC to host a landmark event in Baltimore from October 22-25. This year, the MBDA MED Week Conference and the NMSDC Annual Conference & Exchange converged in a unified venue, an innovative approach aimed at enhancing participation and impact. Nearly 5,000 people attended this year’s conference.


MBDA played a pivotal role by integrating federal government programming into the event, tailored specifically to expand opportunities for the minority business community.

The collaboration reflects the important role nonprofits, private corporations, and the federal government plays in promoting business diversity. The event enabled NMSDC and MBDA to convene with high-level federal partners to engage in important policy discussions focused on accelerating growth for minority businesses. It also provided a more effective platform to educate companies and minority business enterprises (MBEs) on business development and contracting opportunities in emerging industries and federal programs and services that support business growth.


Don Cravins Jr. Minority Business Development Agency MBDA Minority Business Development Act of 2021 Capital Readiness Program Business Centers Biden-Harris Administration ice President Kamala Harri Capital Readiness Grant rural communities Department of Energy National Aeronautic Space Administration (NASA) Public Private Strategies Institute (PPSI) National Alliance of Black Businesses fraternities of the National Pan-Hellenic Council also known as The Divine Nin 100 Black Men of America Bipartisan Infrastructure Law CHIPS and Science Act Inflation Reduction Act Access to Capital Forum Minority Business Development Act Kenya Kenya Trade Mission 40th Anniversary Minority Enterprise Development Week MED Week MED Week 2023 National Minority Supplier Development Council Inc. NMSDC

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