Sen. Cantwell, Commerce Sec. Raimondo Announce Infusion of Federal Dollars to Support and Grow Minority-Owned Businesses in Washington State

Tacoma Business Center receives new $2M award through Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)

SEATTLE, WA – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo today announced that MBDA Tacoma received a $2 million award to support their operations for the next five years. The announcement came during a roundtable discussion with minority-owned small business leaders and entrepreneurs from across Washington who shared their own successful experiences with the Center. 

Sen. Cantwell said it was imperative to expand access to the critical federal resources and support provided through the MBDA to grow minority-owned businesses and create new jobs. 

“We know from today, that many of you used the [MBDA] program successfully and it has helped you grow your businesses to the next stage,” Sen. Cantwell said. “And we know, if we authorize this program and we make it permanent, and if we increase the funding, that not only will we grow businesses in Puget Sound, we will grow them across the country.”

Sen. Cantwell and Sec. Raimondo spoke with minority business owners from throughout the state who shared their successes achieved utilizing the resources and technical assistance provided through MBDA Tacoma.  According to its director Linda Womack, over the past 5 years, the Tacoma Business Center has assisted 332 businesses across the region by providing business development and capacity-building technical assistance, helping create and retain nearly 2900 jobs.

“[A]s the senator said, COVID wasn't fair in many ways. And specifically, minority owned businesses got hit harder, had a harder time accessing capital and went out of business in greater numbers,” Sec. Raimondo said.  “[T]he work that they do here…is a lifeline for minority owned businesses. And so I also have a big announcement to make, which is that the Commerce Department and the MBDA are going to make a five year $2 million grant to the Tacoma MBDA Office.”

“I am excited and honored that the City of Tacoma’s MBDA Business Center has been awarded this significant grant to expand on its support of minority business owners, who are a critical component of our economic recovery,” said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. “This is a wonderful acknowledgment of the great work the City of Tacoma and its partners have accomplished over the past five years. Businesses are a vital part of our community’s character and vitality, and we will continue our efforts to be an inclusive and opportunity-rich economic environment for all entrepreneurs and business owners in Tacoma and the region."

Minority business enterprises (MBEs) were among the hardest hit during the pandemic. According to a National Bureau of Economic Research analysis, from February to April 2020, an estimated 41 percent of Black-owned businesses, 32 percent of Latino-owned businesses, and 26 percent of Asian-owned businesses closed while 17 percent of white-owned businesses closed. This disproportionate impact exposed long-standing racial disparities in access to capital and technical training. MBEs are more likely to be denied loans than non-MBEs; on average, the annual gross receipts reported by MBEs is only one-third of the annual gross receipts reported by non-MBEs; and MBEs are half as likely as non-MBEs to have employees.

One of the local business leaders at the round table, Irene Reyes, CEO and President of Excel Supply based in Tacoma, said at the round table, “I’ve been a distributer of medical safety supplies since 1993 and I have been an advocate for minority businesses because I am it. I am the experience. It is an honor and privilege having you both here… I have organically grown this company since 1993 to several million dollars today, utilizing and capitalizing on the federally funded programs to help minority and women-owned businesses, including my SBA loan. I am very happy to share that during the pandemic, I officially finished constructing my building with an SBA loan.”

Sen. Cantwell, who co-sponsored legislation introduced last month, believes Congress must permanently authorize the MBDA which, despite its history of success, it is not currently a permanent agency at the Department of Commerce.  The Senator also wants to build on the agency’s success by vastly expanding its funding to spur the growth of minority-owned businesses, create jobs and strengthen the economy. 

“Seventy-five percent of job growth in America comes from small businesses. So if you don't have women or minorities growing businesses, you're leaving out a huge part of the population,” said Senator Cantwell. “So it's imperative that the Minority Business Development Agency become a permanent program. It was created in the Nixon administration, but because it was never really authorized, every year, people debated how much money it would get or not get.”

Participants included: Jimmy Matta, Burien Mayor and Owner, Ahora Construction; Linda Womack, Program Director, MBDA Tacoma; Joe Sky-Tucker, CEO, Business Impact NW (Seattle); Ollie Garrett, CEO, Tabor 100 (Seattle); Arti O’Brien, CEO, Advanced Government Services (Seattle); Dennis Farrow, CEO, Advanced Technology Construction (Tacoma); Danny Hankins, Blue Shift Media (Tacoma); Thomas Jordan, CETS: Communication Energy Technology Solutions (Seattle); Agung Soetamin, S&J Foods (Tacoma); Young Sang Song, Song Consulting LLC (Seattle); Jeffrey Steverson, JDS Janitorial, (Tacoma); Irene Reyes, CEO and President, Excel Supply (Tacoma); and Annette Washington, Owner, IYBS (Renton).

You can read the full letter announcing the MDBA grant to the City of Tacoma HERE.