An over-capacity crowd of more than 700 minority business owners and leaders gathered Tuesday, March 5, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). The celebration was held at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Herbert C. Hoover Building in Washington, D.C. An additional 900 people tuned into the livestream of the program.
Opening the program was Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who spoke about the importance of entrepreneurship and the critical role that minority business enterprises (MBEs) play in the national economy. Secretary Ross then recognized the former National Directors of MBDA who were present, which included Joan Fonseca, Courtland Cox, Ronald N. Langston, and David Hinson.
A moving tribute was made to Robert J. Brown, who served as Special Assistant to the President for Richard Nixon. It was because of Brown’s advice that President Nixon originally issued Executive Order 11458, which created the Office of Minority Business Enterprise (OMBE) on March 5, 1969. OMBE was the precursor to MBDA. In recognition of Mr. Brown’s critical contribution to the existence of MBDA, National Director Henry Childs II announced that MBDA’s MBE of the Year Award would be renamed in honor of Robert J. Brown.
National Director Childs signed a historic memorandum of understanding with the United States Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber will harness its resources in partnership with MBDA to better serve the needs of MBEs across the Nation. MBDA then announced its new Enterprising Women of Color Initiative, which aligns with the Administration’s priority of empowering women across the globe.
A high point of the event was National Director Childs’s keynote address. Childs emphasized the critical role MBEs currently play in the U.S. economy and used the speech to motivate the audience to seize every opportunity to Win the Future.
NFL legend and Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith participated in a fireside chat with National Director Childs, during which they discussed Smith’s experience as a minority entrepreneur. Smith shared his motivation for starting a business after a hugely successful career as a professional athlete, and some of the unique challenges that minority businesses face. Smith paid tribute to the countless minority businesspeople across the Nation who are dedicated to overcoming barriers and for their communities.
The 50th Anniversary Celebration was the first event in MBDA’s yearlong celebration of its milestone year. National Director Childs’s remarks and photographs of the event are available at www.mbda.gov/50years, and a video recording is available at www.livestream.com/uspto/MBDA50.