AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY
May 14, 2013
Thank you for the kind introduction.
On behalf of President Barack Obama and Deputy Secretary of Commerce Dr. Rebecca Blank, I am delighted to be here at Connect 2013.
Allow me to acknowledge the traditional owner of this land and the elders past and present.
I would like to thank Charles Prouse, the Supply Nation Board of Directors and the entire Supply Nation team for inviting me here today and for bringing us all together.
The people of Australia and the United States have shared an uncommon bond for over 70-years.
This bond is rooted in similar beliefs and shared origins.
We both believe that a nation is strongest when all of its citizens have an equal opportunity to realize their dreams through hard work and a commitment to excellence.
We were both former colonies of the same superpower.
And the souls of both of our nations exist in the heart of our indigenous communities.
The soul of America exists within our First Americans – Native Americans.
As the soul of Australia exists within the First Australians – those of aboriginal descent.
We are indeed a people joined together - so perhaps I should say that I am delighted to be here today with family and friends!
This year’s conference theme Turning Contacts into Contracts makes me feel right at home because it is central to the focus of the work that my Agency does throughout the United States.
As head of the Minority Business Development Agency, I represent a sector of the U.S. Economy called the minority business sector.
This sector is composed of nearly 5.8 million companies that generate over $1 trillion in annual economic output – about the same economic output as the nation of South Korea.
This sector includes businesses owned and operated by:
Pacific Islanders and
Members of the Hasidic Jewish community
These groups directly account for six million U.S. jobs and an estimated 10 million additional jobs through their economic activity.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the minority business sector also represents the fastest growing sector in America in terms of:
New job creation
New Business Formation
Gross Receipts generated
And this sector has the best export attributes of any sector in the U.S. economy.
The minority business sector has also grown sizable companies, like Alaska-Native owned Nana Development Corporation.
Nana, which is a client of MBDA, generates over $2 billion in annual revenue and in 2012 alone contributed over $160 million in dividends, wages and other financial support to its village community.
Nana is doing business in Australia and is both a partner and a friend to the Aboriginal Business community.
Other examples include: African-American owned Worldwide Technologies which generates $6 billion in annual revenue.
Hispanic American-owned MasTech Corporation which generates nearly $2 billion in annual revenue
And Asian-American owned Tang Industries which also generated nearly $2 billion in annual revenue.
All of these companies have worked closely with MBDA to expand their relationships in private industry, government contracting, and export markets.
There are hundreds of $100 million in revenue or larger minority-owned businesses in the United States, but it was NOT always that way.
Back nearly 45-year ago around - the time MBDA was established as a federal government agency - the minority business community was composed of only 300,000 companies and most of them were very small businesses with less than $50,000 in annual revenue.
How did the minority business community grow so rapidly in the United States? How did we turn contacts into contracts?
Allow me to share with you several reasons why minority-owned businesses have been so successful in America:
First, in the 1960’s leaders in the Civil Rights movement engaged the U.S. government, the private sector, and the non-profit community as partners to come together around the notion of economic empowerment for the minority business community.
At the time this was a new concept and there were many skeptics to the notion that private sector inputs could lead to economic equality for minority communities.
But there was a clear goal and the Nation came together and made a commitment.
This commitment has continued for the past 45-years and has not just led to creation of the Minority Business Development Agency and the support of other federal government entities.
It has resulted in the creation of city and state level programs to support minority business growth.
The creation of the National Minority Supplier Development Council
The creation of thousands of minority chambers of commerce across America.
The creation of the Billion Dollar Round table, an organization composed of U.S. Fortune 500 corporations that do at least $1 billion in annual procurement with minority and women-owned businesses and most important the creation of millions of successful businesses.
Through organized and targeted engagement the minority business community turned contacts into contracts!
Second, minority entrepreneurs are committed to developing world-class performance capabilities.
Meeting the supply chain needs of U.S. multi-nationals is very hard work and requires minority business owners to literally spend decades perfecting their craft.
For many of these firms, it has tested both their patience and endurance.
It has required them to stay abreast of the latest technology, continuously invest in new systems, develop stronger management practices, retool staff, establish stronger financial relationships, and constantly measure performance.
Not all firms will be successful, unfortunately many will fail - but those that stayed the course and remained focused on top line revenue growth are rewarded with more business and greater market share.
Another way that minority entrepreneurs turned contacts into contracts was by focusing on innovation.
Minority business owners continue to find ways to do things more efficiently and effectively to lower costs while extending service support.
We constantly hear stories of minority-owned businesses in the supply chains of large corporations who offer a new more efficient ways to deliver their products and services.
How many people have a casing on their cell phone?
If you were in the United States - about 1/3 of you would have cell phone case manufactured by MBDA client called Supreme Communications.
This company began by manufacturing plastic cell phone casings. They then developed a technology to perfectly place the clear cover over the cell phone face because about 20 percent of the covers were being returned as defective because the customer could not properly install.
They provided this technology to their customers who now embrace it - saving customers millions of dollars.
They then began developing a “green” cell phone charger, which several of their customers now market.
Recently they opened a store to test new innovations in sales and customer support.
As Supreme Communications continues to grow, MBDA is a valued partner in developing their market strategies and extending the company’s relationships with private and public sector buying organizations.
There are many similar stories across the minority-business community, but the point is that minority-owned businesses have been effective in turning contacts into contracts by providing new product service innovations to their customers.
Finally, U.S. minority-owned firms have turned contacts to contracts by building global partnerships.
In the highly competitive global arena, it is difficult to go it alone. So, firms that desired to be highly successful established global partnerships to help them grow.
Some partnerships were joint ventures to focus on the sale of a product or service.
Some partnerships are strategic while others are financial.
But in all instances these global partnerships led to new ways of thinking and open up doors to company growth and the expansion of market share that never before existed.
I am proud of the fact that my Agency has been a leader in assisting the minority business community growth, both in the United States and around the world.
Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, we have assisted minority-owned firms in gaining access to nearly $15 billion in contracts and contracts.
We have developed new sources of capital access.
And now we are assisting firms in expanding globally.
I am looking forward to partnering with Supply Nation, Big Blue Sky, and all of you in a new effort to support the growth of the Aboriginal business community through strategic partnerships with U.S. minority-owned firms.
This process has already begun, but I hope that together we can accelerate this effort.
The growth of the minority business community within the United States has not been without challenges or mistakes many companies have failed along the way.
And after all these years, we still have not achieved the initial goal of full economic parity for the minority business community.
But we have come a long way and we have many lessons from the 45-plus years of effort.
For me the biggest lesson is that if we work together, with commitment and respect – with a willingness to teach and to be taught – we can achieve anything.
Greatness does exist in this room. And it’s up to us to realize it.
You have a partner in me and the Minority Business Development Agency of the United States Department of Commerce.
Thank you for allowing me to speak with you today and please enjoy the rest of the Conference.