Remarks by MBDA National Director Alejandra Y. Castillo at ACE National Conference

as prepared for delivery


November 13, 2014

National Director Castillo

Good afternoon and thank you Martin for that warm introduction.

We certainly appreciate the remarks of Deputy Secretary of Commerce, Bruce Andrews.  

I am so pleased to be here with you today. I certainly want to acknowledge the outstanding leadership of this organization:

  • Sach Takayatsu – President & CEO of ACE

  • Jimmy Ferguson – National Board Chairman

  • Bill Imada – Fmr. Chairman and the founder of ACE and the WH Initiative on AAPI Commissioner

  • Albert Shen – MBDA National Deputy Director

It is good for us to be here – at your Second Annual National Conference & Awards Banquet. We celebrate this young, effective organization that is doing great work on behalf of the Asian American Pacific Islander community – a community that faithfully contributes billions to the national economy and to the vitality of many local communities.

Cesar Chavez, a master organizer and coalition builder among many other things, once said – “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community... Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”

His sentiment describes what your founders have created and you together have built in a short time – an opportunity for individual businesses and business owners to prosper without forgetting the collective need for unity in your community and the collective prosperity that will result.

Your theme then: UNITE.  LEARN.  PROSPER. becomes a call to action for all of us in the face of shifting economic indicators, political changes across the country and social and technological advances that change even the most fundamental ways we engage each other and conduct our business.

Your theme rightly insists that no matter what, we do these three things: UNITE. LEARN.(and) PROSPER.

So let me tell you how MBDA has done these three things…

As the Deputy Secretary has outlined, the Minority Business Development Agency is your gateway to the considerable resources and tools available within the Department of Commerce via The International Trade Administration and our Federal Procurement Center. For 45 years our agency has been dedicated to the growth and global competitiveness of the U.S. minority owned business sector. It is our job to support the critical contributors to the U.S. economy – you – as a part of our nation’s 5.8 million minority-owned firms.

We have taken seriously President Obama’s charge to double exports and do all that we can do to grow minority businesses in size, scale and capacity – knowing that when we are successful, the American economy grows via MBEs, the fastest growing and most innovative sector of the U.S. economy accounting for more than $1 trillion in economic output.

UNITE. We revamped our Business Center model to form a national network of business centers no longer bound by geography but united in our commitment to your commercial success. Now, MBEs can gain information, insight and access from any of our 44 business centers. Within our national network are centers of specialized expertise: our focus in Chicago, Phoenix and San Antonio is improving and increasing exports to emerging markets.

  • In Chicago, we have our Access to Capital Initiative and Pathways to Africa Initiative. San Antonio focuses on trade in Latin America and can assist with the Look South program.

  • In Phoenix, one of our highest performing business centers, they have had excellent results with growth and expansion strategies. The Phoenix business center is also involved with a major development project in Mexico as part of the Department of Commerce’s “Look South” Initiative.

  • Our Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit and Indianapolis business centers are focused on advanced manufacturing.

  • In the San Francisco Bay area, home to Silicon Valley and all things tech, start-up and green technology, our business center focuses on technology transfer and our lab to market efforts. We are working to commercialize the ideas and incubate the concepts that we hope will be the next big thing in the tech world.

We want to say to all who are interested that these emerging markets are not delineated by ethnicity, but by any business’ preparation for growth and expansion. We are united in one understanding – that our operational excellence yields market success for you. And we are still learning…

LEARN.  I want to encourage you to learn as much as possible about the variety of resources, supports and strategic collaborations that are available to you through the federal government and our strategic partners. This encompasses the three pillars of our work: access to capital, access to contracts and access to markets. 

Access to capital – the number one impediment to our ability to grow in size, scale and capacity…We want to work with you to find alternative means for financing: venture capital, private equity, family office and crowd funding. These alternative investment strategies have often been the difference between stagnant and successful for many MBEs so we recommit to increasing access to capital.

We are already making great progress. Our business center in Chicago has developed a powerful strategic partnership with the Association for Corporate Growth, an international network of middle market business owners and deal makers who host an annual Midwest Capital Connection event that brings together some of the most renowned deal makers in the nation. Minority businesses have not historically been a part of this gathering but this year – there was a breakthrough. We not only partnered with them to host a Minority Finance Forum but we were also able to invite 50+MBEs from around the country to come and meet members of this of this network of investors whose collective portfolio totals $160 billion. This is the kind of progress that we are making on your behalf.

We were also pleased to honor Mr. Ash Luthra President & CEO of LSL Industries, as our 2014 Minority Leader Award recipient. Mr. Luthra serves as a board member on the National Advisory Council for Minority Business Enterprises, which was formed by the Obama Administration to provide advice and recommendations to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce on a broad range of policy issues affecting the minority business community.

Access to contracts is about more than getting a contract. We will work with you to prepare you for successful contract pursuit and also work with you to assure proper implementation. We will continue to leverage federal opportunities, corporate supply chains and mega construction projects on behalf of MBEs.

Access to markets domestically and globally.  Our leveraging of relationships and resources domestically will extend globally as we continue to answer the President’s call to greater global market penetration and access for American made goods and services. As you know, MBE’s have the most favorable export attributes by being twice as likely to export goods and services; six times more likely to transact business in another language and more likely to have international operations. With federal initiatives and targeted programs like the National Export Initiative, Doing Business in Africa, Doing Business in Asia, and Look South – the United States, fueled by MBE ingenuity is strategically positioned for even greater market presence and prosperity.

PROSPER.  The definition of prosper has a few relevant facets:  to succeed in an enterprise or activity – to achieve economic success – to become strong and flourishing…on behalf of the Minority Business Development Agency this is our wish for you: to have great success - our country is depending on it. To become strong – economic and cultural strength as you have demonstrated it builds communities. 

These facets of prosperity remind us also of the interdependence of the elements of your theme:  UNITE. LEARN. PROSPER.  When we unite, commit to work together – we learn that we really are better that way, together - and that together we will experience individual and community prosperity.

MBDA is here to help – to support you and to leverage our resources on your behalf. We know that when your businesses grow and expand, jobs are created; families are stabilized and communities thrive.

That’s real unity. That’s real learning and that’s real prosperity.



ACE is the National Asian Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship