According to the latest Census figures, the number of black-owned businesses increased three times faster than other groups by the year 2007. But the recent recession has hit minority firms hard. As part of National Small Business Week, the Small Business Administration sought to highlight what the Obama administration is doing to help businesses to survive during these tough economic times.
During her address, SBA Deputy Administrator Marie Johns said MZM Construction Inc. was a shining example of a small business that, with help from federal loan programs, is managing the storm and succeeding. Johns said, "Even though African-American businesses are facing challenges, we’ve worked hard to help small businesses get back on their feet.”
Marjorie Perry, president and CEO of Newark-based MZM Construction, has worked on major projects from sports facilities to airports. But she couldn't do it alone, she said at the event. “In 1998, I needed to borrow my first $250,000 and the SBA was the only entity who trusted us and backed me.” Since that time, Perry says she’s been doing between $7 and $8 million a year in business.
SBA lending is now back to pre-recession levels, which has resulted in the issuing of some 60,000 business loans. But despite these advancements, Johns says there is much more to be done to make sure the needs of small business owners are met. “That’s why we hosted a match-making session that allows businesses to present themselves for procurement opportunities, and we hosted a social media forum that offered tips to help small businesses to use technology to grow,” said Johns.
The SBA has also beefed up outreach efforts to spread the word about how the government can be of service to small businesses. Johns said, “The thing that I hear as I travel around the country is that people don’t know about what’s available. We’ve stepped up with our Council on Underserved Communities, our urban economic forum tour and we’ve reached out to faith communities in our effort to help businesses learn about the opportunities that are out there.”
But awareness is only half the battle. People have to do their part to reach out if they’re in trouble. Perry said, “People in underserved communities cannot be afraid to go and ask for help. There are tools out there, especially for minority women. For example, we learned that we needed to diversify eight years ago, and now that has lined us up for our next loan we’ll need for growth in the future.”
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(Photo: Commercial Appeal/Landov