Today, the Governor's Office of Minority Affairs hosted the MBE University Conference in Princess Anne to support Maryland's minority and women-owned businesses and to highlight the State's MBE progress. This is the fourth in a series of conferences that will travel around the State to offer training, opportunities, and information on the tools necessary for minority or woman-owned businesses to expand, create jobs, and thrive even in difficult economic times. Today's conference in Princess Anne focused on niche marketing -- tapping into underutilized markets. Dr. Ronnie E. Holden, Vice President for Administrative Affairs for the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and Rhonda Mencarini, Manager of Supplier Diversity, Pepco Holdings, Inc. also attended the event.
"As we seek to turn the corner from recession to prosperity, our mission is simple: to create jobs, to save jobs, to improve the conditions that empower businesses to create and save jobs," said Governor O'Malley. "In your state government we have the most ambitious goals for Minority Business Enterprise in the United States of America. MBE University is designed to help us exceed them, together."
Governor O'Malley launched MBE University in December 2009 in Prince George's County, where more than 300 attendees gathered to discuss ways to expand opportunity to small, minority and women owned businesses throughout Maryland. Last month, MBE University traveled to the Baltimore and Southern Maryland regions.
"By investing in Maryland's small and minority-owned businesses, we are not only supporting our working families and expanding job opportunities, but we are building a stronger future with a diverse economy," said Lt. Governor Brown. "Governor O'Malley and I are dedicated to strengthening our workforce and providing Marylanders with the vital information and resources they need to successfully open new doors in their communities and continue to thrive for years to come."
Participants had the opportunity to attend workshops that provided information on contracting with the State as an MBE, response procedures for bid solicitations, MBE certification process, doing business with educational institutions and the local school construction program, niche marketing, and the State's commercial non-discrimination policy. The conference also offered a workshop on how Maryland's MBE Program policies and efforts are changing the economic opportunity landscape for small, minority and women-owned businesses. MBE University's private sector sponsors and partners include Delmarva Power (a subsidiary of Pepco Holdings, Inc.), University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and G.S. Proctor & Associates, Inc. Delmarva Power also hosted workshops on how to do business with its organization, as well as its C&I Energy Savings Program.
"Under the leadership of Governor O'Malley and Lt. Governor Brown, Maryland continues to make substantial progress in its capacity building initiatives for MBEs," said Governor's Office of Minority Affairs Special Secretary Luwanda Jenkins. "Connecting MBE firms in all areas of our great State to vital opportunities and resources is a necessity, especially during these tough economic times."
Maryland is home to one of the nation's leading MBE programs, and it has established the highest minority and women-owned business contracting goals in the nation at 25 percent. In addition, Maryland is one of only 15 states in the nation with MBE goals and one of only a few states with an MBE law in statute. Maryland remains the only state in the nation to collect uniform reporting data including actual payments to MBEs.
In Fiscal Year 2009, Maryland state agencies achieved 22 percent MBE participation, up from 20 percent in the previous year. These include over $1.6 billion in awards to MBE firms, an increase of 26 percent in one year, and $1 billion in payment to MBE firms.
"MBE University" was created in collaboration with the State's minority business coordinating agencies and the Governor's Office. Coordinating agencies include the Department of Transportation, Governor's Office of Minority Affairs, Department of Business and Economic Development, Department of General Services, and the Governor's Grants Office. The 2010 conference schedule also includes Western Maryland (Hagerstown) on July 7th and the Capital Region (Montgomery County) in fall 2010.
For more information on the MBE University Initiative, contact the Governor's Office at 410-767-8232 or visit www.mdminoritybusiness.com.