doubt that he will put in place a very capable combination of savvy business people who will also have the political skills to help execute Obama’s mandate to create economic and job growth,” says Hodges, who is currently a senior vice president of One Economy Corp., a global nonprofit that delivers access to technology and content to low- and moderate-income households.
In addition, says Hodges, during the Clinton administration, the agency actively aimed to expand opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses in the private and international trade sectors. Under the leadership of the late Secretary Ron Brown, who died in a plane crash over Croatia, the agency led trade missions to several foreign nations for those businesses and helped them form strategic alliances with such major corporations as Disney, Kodak, and Lockheed Martin.
If Obama and Richardson were to seek counsel from Moore or Hodges, both say they’d advise the administration to transfer the Small Business Administration’s minority business activities to MBDA, because they have floundered under the SBA, whose primary focus has been providing loans and access to capital, but not necessarily to the benefit of minority businesses.
They also believe that with the proper funding and leadership, MBDA could be a major force in helping minority businesses gain increased access to capital, assistance with capacity expansion and joint venture opportunities with major corporations.
“A critical issue is capacity building. If in fact small businesses create two-thirds of jobs, you need minority businesses to be able to perform in the economic recovery. To do that, they need to build more capacity; that should be MBDA’s number one job,” says Moore.
Because MBDA works with federal agencies across the board, adds Hodges, despite not having a direct appropriation, during the Clinton administration it was able to establish memorandums of understanding with various agencies to form joint ventures with cities and private-sector corporations and explore a variety of international trade opportunities. “Everybody kind of honed in on what their agency could do to promote these very broad goals. Access to capital wasn’t just at SBA; it was at all of the federal agencies. Access to emerging markets wasn’t just through Commerce, it was also through Energy, which saw tremendous growth in working with minority and women owned businesses,” explains Hodges.
“Given the proper funding, I think MBDA can do a lot more. When Richardson was at Energy, the department was among the leading participants in minority business programs,” says Moore.
Under Richardson, Hodges believes that minority businesses should seek both increased access to capital, which is always a critical component to success, and access to markets and opportunity. Small business loans, expanded credit, encouraging venture capital companies and minority venture capital companies to invest in minority business will be paramount to the abilities of mid-tier companies’ to build capacity and start-up firms to create new business.
“When you look at job growth and taking our economy from a recession to one that’s growing, a lot of that growth is going to come from new businesses hiring people,” says