NASHVILLE (October 20, 2018) – The annual Minority Enterprise Development Week (MEDWeek), typically a celebration of accomplishments made by minority businesses and a nod to their contributions to the nation’s economy, is going off with a special twist this year.
Hosted by the Nashville Minority Business Center, the week, held Oct. 30 through Nov. 6, will focus its energy on increasing the economic opportunities for minority enterprises aiming to do business with state government. In its 34th year, MEDWeek has taken on many forms, but this year proves to be one of the most significant as it will set the stage for advocating for programs, processes, and policies to increase the number of minority businesses that are awarded substantive state contracts.
The theme of this year’s MEDWeek, ‘Changing the Game: Contracting for Equity – Best Practices that Advance Diversity in Government Contracting and Procurement’ is designed to encourage discussion around the steps that need to be taken to improve the economic outcomes for all small enterprises that are interested in doing business with state government, according to Marilyn Robinson, executive director of the Nashville Minority Business Center.
“We are excited about the opportunity to work with government officials and small businesses to ensure microenterprises have a seat at the table when it comes to being awarded and paid through state contracts,” Robinson said. “We always encourage small businesses to become certified to do business with our state and local government, but the numbers show that even when they do receive the certification, they aren’t receiving contracts in an impactful way. We hope to start the groundwork to change that.”
The numbers are staggering.
Of the $2.6 billion the State of Tennessee spent with private firms in 2015, only approximately $299 million, or about 11 percent, was awarded to firms owned by women, veterans, and minorities (African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans), as well as those classified by state standards as a small business, according to the 2015 Governor’s Office of Diversity Business Enterprise’s (GoDBE) Annual Report.
Over the past 10 years, GoDBE has made some significant strides. State government spending with minority businesses rose less than $12 million in 2005 to approximately $299 million in 2015, according to the annual report.
But these strides aren’t enough.
“Obviously, GoDBE has been making some headway in this area, but I think we can do better than this,” Robinson said. “It’s not about being critical or pointing fingers; this is about working together to solve a problem that ultimately affects our economy.”
State government officials and contracting experts from around the country are set to lead discussions around the processes and potential outcomes the State of Tennessee can make to increase the number of diverse businesses that receive state contracts.
The week will feature sessions with experts from Seattle, Houston, Baltimore, D.C., and Oakland. Attendees can expect to hear from Nancy M. Locke, Director of the City of Seattle’s Purchasing & Contracting Services for the Department of Finance and Administrative Services; Marsha E. Murray, Esq., Deputy Director of Houston’s Office of Business Opportunity; Eleanor M. Ramsey, Ph.D. President of Mason Tillman Associates Ltd.; Franklin M. Lee, Esq., partner in the Baltimore-based law firm of Tydings & Rosenberg LLP and former Chief Counsel for the Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense & Education Fund, Inc. and Anthony W. Robinson, Esq., principal of the Robinson Law Firm and founding President of the Minority Business Legal Defense and Education Fund (MBELDEF).
State Rep. Karen D. Camper and other legislators, business officials, and state agency representatives will lead a policy discussion with the goal of eliminating systemic barriers and creating sustainable economic development opportunities for diverse businesses in the state of Tennessee.
Not to worry, MEDWeek has not completely abandoned its mission of celebrating the successes of entrepreneurs.
Through Minority Business Recognition Sunday, held at various local churches on Oct. 30, and the prestigious Dr. R.H. Boyd Minority Business Achievement Awards, held at the Ruth’s Chris Steak House on Sunday, Nov. 6, the week will keep with its tradition of honoring outstanding entrepreneurs.
“We are excited about the opportunity to celebrate our collective successes in the business community, and we always want to recognize the best and brightest entrepreneurs among us,” said Lethia Swett Mann, who is the chair of MEDWeek. “Our tradition has been to honor the achievements of outstanding business owners, and we will continue to pay tribute to these successes, as they inspire so many others to continue along the path of excellence.”
The center has set up a web site for potential attendees to learn more about the week and all the activities associated with it. Visit nashvillemedweek.org to register for sessions and learn more about the 2016 MEDWeek celebration.