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Federal grant helps council open Denver Minority Business Center


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The path to contracting and financing for minority-owned business is widening with the new Denver Minority Business Center opening Wednesday.

In April, the Rocky Mountain Minority Supplier Development Council won a five-year, $1.2 million grant from the federal government to establish the business center and foster economic growth of minority-owned businesses.

The initial $243,359 award for this year is part of a $7.8 million grant awarded to 27 Minority Business Development Agency business centers across the country.

The Development Council will house and operate the new business center in the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce building at 1445 Market St.

"Our primary mission is to create jobs. That's what we do," said David Hinson, Development Agency national director. "So we're excited to have an opportunity to support job growth in the state of Colorado."

According to the agency, minority-owned companies outpaced the growth of non-minority-owned companies in gross receipts, employment and number of companies between 2002 and 2007. Minority-owned businesses generate $1 trillion in annual economic output to the U.S. economy and employ about 6 million people.

"The minority business community in Denver is strong and growing," Hinson said. "It's one of the fastest growing minority business communities in the country."

Stan Sena, chief executive of the Rocky Mountain MSDC, said the majority of the grant will go toward hiring consultants for the business center who will assist minority-owned firms in expanding operations and gaining access to contracts and the capital to fund those contracts.

He said the first-year goals were to generate $85 million in contracting and financing for minority-owned businesses and to create 75 jobs and help retain 60 jobs.

Denver-based AxxessConnect, a provider of telecommunication services to government and commercial operations, used the services of the Development Council to expand into new markets. The council helped AxxessConnect expand its market from defense — its largest customer is the U.S. Department of Defense — to the corporate world and local government.

AxxessConnect provides Internet and telecommunications wiring for UPS as a result of connections made through membership in the council.

"We had become a very small national company, and we could improve on our cost structure if we got business closer to home," said AxxessConnect CEO Walker Fleming. "We went to the Rocky Mountain MSDC to make sure that we had the opportunity to see opportunities in corporate America."

Fleming estimated that membership in the Development Council accounted for less than 5 percent of his company's annual sales, which were about $5 million last year. He said he expects that figure to jump to 25 percent over the next several years.

The new Denver Minority Business Center could help AxxessConnect meet heavy upfront payroll requirements that he expected to have if the company wins contracts that are currently in its pipeline, Fleming said.

"We've seen the value of being involved in some of these organizations," he said.

Original Posted at http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_18366171 by Justin T. Hilley

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