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MBDA’s 2016 Year in Review Building an Inclusive Innovation Ecosystem Aiding America’s Economic Recovery


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Blogged By: 
Alejandra Y. Castillo, MBDA National Director

As we bring 2016 to a close, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is particularly proud of the accomplishments achieved throughout the year. This year, MBDA reached new milestones creating along the way important initiatives and programs that supported the continued growth of minority business enterprises (MBEs) within an innovation-driven economy.

Throughout the year, MBDA played a critical role in U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s Open for Business agenda. As the leading federal agency dedicated to the growth and global competitiveness of MBEs, MBDA remains enthusiastic about the future role that MBEs will increasingly play in fueling the Nation’s economic health and prosperity.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker with MBDA Staff

MBDA understands that policies and programs must be anchored in data. Our ability to readily access timely, accurate data from our sister agency, the U.S. Census Bureau, allows MBDA to make informed decisions when developing programs and initiatives to best serve MBEs. Such data analysis showed us, for example, that minority entrepreneurs are driving job gains and revenue growth at record rates. In 2012, for example, MBEs generated $1.4 trillion dollars of economic output and created 7.2 million jobs for the Nation, according to the 2012 Survey of Business Owners. The contributions from MBEs were especially crucial during the period of 2009-2012, as the United States sought to recover from a major downturn.

Now as 2016 draws to a close, MBDA is encouraged to see the unemployment rate at 4.6 percent, down from a high of nearly 9 percent in 2009. We take special pride in having played a role in the growth and expansion of the economy, thanks in part to the robust contributions of MBEs supported by MBDA grants, technical assistance, and advocacy during the eight years of President Barack Obama’s Administration. The White House’s 2016 celebration of November as National Entrepreneurship Month made special mention of MBDA’s efforts to shape an inclusive innovation ecosystem for MBEs.

With this newsletter, we’re pleased now to invite you to review several milestones that MBDA marked in 2016, including:

Access to Alternative Capital: Developing partnerships with alternative lenders such as Fundation to aid MBEs in more readily obtaining capital to grow their companies.

Fundation MOU

Expanding Stakeholder Outreach: Joining forces with Essence Magazine to launch the first ever Entrepreneurship  Village at Essence Festival, a flagship cultural event drawing nearly a half-million people to New Orleans,  including many thousands of women business owners seeking insights and actionable information on sustaining and growing their enterprises.

MBDA at Essence Festival

New MBDA Business Centers: Welcoming a new cadre of MBDA Business Centers into our national network of technical partners and experts who will support MBEs to access capital, contracts, and markets as well as enter the booming advanced manufacturing and exporting space.

MBDA Business Centers

There is one effort launched in 2016 that we’re especially eager to highlight. It centers on creating pathways for MBEs to expand within the innovation ecosystem, the fast-growing national and global industrial movement that is remaking world markets at lightning speed.  With the support of our parent agency, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the White House, we forged cross-agency alliances with the Federal Labs Consortium, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NASA, and private-sector entities including Historically Black Colleges and Universities to develop an ambitious initiative called the Inclusive Innovation Initiative (I-3).

MBDA I-3

This revolutionary program is designed to connect STEM-oriented MBEs to the vast network of federal research and development (R&D) resources within the federal labs ecosystem, in order to leverage the technology-transfer process that spurs commercialization of government science and manufacturing discoveries.

We founded I-3 based on data trends available from the U.S. Census Bureau, and from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other employment and industry-related research over recent years. In this collection of industry data, we observed clear-cut signs that high-growth sectors of the future will be in technology and STEM-related fields.

The U.S. Census Bureau also reports that within a few years, the U.S. population will be ‘majority-minority’ – a transformation now estimated to take place as early as 2044. There is no question that diversity is America’s greatest asset, and that our positive progress within the global economy is contingent on the growth of MBEs – on a national and global level.

And as the 21st Century marches forward, and amazing technological advances in robotics, Artificial Intelligence, 3D printing and other machine- and Internet-driven innovations accelerate shifts across entire sectors, MBDA sees a wealth of opportunities for minority entrepreneurs to dive into these exciting new fields.

With I-3, MBDA introduced a vehicle to drive greater access for MBEs into the streams and pipelines of innovation. Now, our clients across the Nation can participate in the same Lab-to-Market process that in years past gave birth to such game-changing American innovations as Siri and GPS. We developed I-3 in order to leap-frog MBEs into the innovation ecosystem; we see this as an economic imperative.

In 2016, and during the three years I led this agency as National Director, MBDA also understood that MBEs have a unique opportunity to expand their sales in the global marketplace. Through various partnerships and technical assistance efforts, our MBDA Business Centers helped MBEs successfully place their goods and services in new markets around the world. Our participation at the Hannover Messe trade show in Germany was particularly important to showcase MBE’s commercial innovation and capacity.

MBDA Hannover Messe Trade Show

Overall, MBDA has also been honored to gather and share the stories of many minority entrepreneurs who are making positive contributions to their communities through job and wealth creation, and by bolstering civic and economic engagement.

Going forward, we are certain that MBDA will continue to work to create lasting opportunities for MBEs and all American businesses as essential contributors to the Nation’s overall economic health.

We made tremendous progress in 2016 – and we look forward to continued collaboration across public and private sectors. We genuinely appreciate each and every stakeholder and partner who makes it possible for MBDA to serve our important mission.

Thank you and Happy New Year 2017!

Alejandra Y. Castillo
National Director
Minority Business Development Agency

Read more about MBDA's 2016 Milestones

About MBDA

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