Q&A: Commerce Department's Rick Wade - Page 2 of 5

Q&A: Commerce Department’s Rick Wade

Dingle: In terms of looking at dealing with the bureaucracy, it’s one thing to deal with the federal government, but how do you make it uniform across local and state governments, in terms of the administration of these contracts and accessing them?

Wade: Well, you know, the federal government certainly has its requirements, goals and they are not necessarily the same as each state. Each state has its own goals and platforms and programs around small and minority business participation. However, under the Recover Act, which is obviously an incredible amount of resources moving across our economy, we are working closely with the governors. We are working closely with the state Recovery Act coordinators or state Recovery Act czars to make sure a that they understand that this is a commitment, a priority, not only to the President, but to Vice President Biden who is overseeing this process and that they are being encouraged to do just as much of aggressive outreach as we’re doing on the federal level.

So we think that we are moving in the right direction. The good news is that most of the Recovery Act funds have not been dispersed or awarded, so our challenge now is to make sure that we are being aggressive in moving this message all across the country and to bring as many minority companies as part of this dialogue as possible.

Dingle: As it relates to Recovery Act contracts, how do you measure success? A year from now where should we be?

Wade: Well, you know, we don’t have a numeric number yet. We’re putting together a process, a tracking and reporting system in place, through our Minority Business Development Agency. SBA does have some criteria and they do have tracking processes as relates to small businesses, but, you know, we’re hopeful that we’re going to see more small businesses and medium businesses, medium-size businesses and more large minority companies raise up and become competitive and be successful in this process.

Dingle: I talked to the Commerce Secretary and one of the issues that he raised was financial. Small businesses, especially minority businesses are having a hard time gaining access to capital. The credit market is still tight. How are you going to make sure that they gain the loans that they need? What are the financing mechanisms Commerce is putting in place, beyond the guaranteed loan program, to ensure that minority firms gain contracts?

Wade: This has been an age-old question or issue, access to capital, and it is just so simple. These businesses need access to capital to be able to survive. I’ve spent a lot of time out in Detroit, as a part of the Auto Recovery Task Force, and the one thing that I’ve heard over and over and over from these suppliers is that they need capital and they need it now. They’re all understanding that they have to reinvent for the future, but it’s about keeping their doors open.

So, as you may be aware, the President has made a commitment through SBA, has freed up some $15 billion in financing, as well as from MBDA with some of the loan programs. So there are loan programs and grant programs and some of us also — and I think what David Hinson, our new MBDA Director, brings to this conversation is just a wealth of experience in how to create successes through creative financing, through partnerships, through acquisitions, through mergers. Because partnership is critical in this whole process if we want to create the big business success stories that we hope that we will be engaged in. I think he’s going to bring that leadership and relationships to get that job done.