Q&A: Commerce Department's Rick Wade - Page 4 of 5

Q&A: Commerce Department’s Rick Wade

Dingle: So the emphasis is on retooling established businesses or creating a pipeline for new businesses?

Wade: Well, it’s both. I mean, I think that is the future of the economy. We are transitioning, we’re reinventing current businesses to compete in a domestic and global marketplace of the future, but it’s also creating a pipeline for entrepreneurism, innovation, ideas that we can commercialize and take to market.

Dingle: So is that pipeline going to come from historically black colleges and universities, colleges, where are you going to find a new breed of entrepreneurs to take advantage of the new economy?

Wade: Well, you know, you mentioned HBCUs. I’ve always been an advocate that historically black colleges and universities, and other minority serving institutions, could be an incredible resource. They should be centers for entrepreneurism, centers for innovation, not just tapping into the incredible faculty and an academic talent that we have, but the ideas, the new ideas that students bring in the academic environment. Then our job is to take those ideas and let’s figure out how we can transform them into commercial opportunities and products and services. So, yes, I think our institutions of higher learning can play a very valuable role in creating new innovations and ideas, and being a pipeline for future business leaders across America.

Dingle: As you know, we have the BE 100’s, the nations largest black owned businesses.

Wade: Yes.

Dingle: One of the goals that was stated at the MED Week conference is that we want to take small businesses and make them large businesses, so the smaller black businesses can become BE 100s companies.

Wade: Sure.

Dingle: What are the stages to get there?

Wade: Well, I mean, some of the things that I talked about earlier. I mean, how can we make sure that they can compete, which means knowing the market information, market intelligence, where are the sectors for growth and expansion. Creating partnerships with larger companies, mergers and acquisitions and other kinds of configurations that yield success.

Magic Johnson talked a great deal about this at the conference, the importance of partnering and having the right partners. So those are the kinds of strategies that we believe can work and we want to be that advocate, as Secretary Locke said, to help take the small business to a medium-sized company, a medium-sized company to a large company. I think with our relationships across the Department of Commerce, across the world, but you will see us playing a more aggressive role as well in building and brokering these relationships. The fact of the matter is there are a lot of countries, as well, who do business in America and we need to make sure minority companies are part of those business processes as well. So it is a two-way street, doing business abroad, companies doing business from abroad, in America, making a direct investment. There are a lot of ways I think in which the federal government and this administration can play in helping to advance this.