Should There has been much discussion about the proposed elimination (White House projection) of the Minority Business Development Agency which is parked under the management of the US Department of Commerce. I first learned about the MBDA years after I stepped into the world of entrepreneurship. That was typical. Most people do not learn of this industry known as minority business technical support. My first exposure was when I went into the Indiana State government as a Minority Business Development Deputy Administrator. That is when I quickly learned that most of these programs run by city, state and federal were pretty much all talk and hardly a hint of real substance. These programs sprung up because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Enforcement of Title VI of the Act was the driver for both government and private business.
Before long, 1982, state by state; city by city; universities, counties and even corporations doing business with a government or benefitting from government regulation had a program. How good are these programs? There are some great and some good but for the most part we still have many miles to go. If we didn’t have Title VI we wouldn’t get any contracts and millions of jobs would not touch our communities. More importantly, is the MBDA beneficial to minority business? I would score it (from my 27 years in this business) a C-. It has been an after - thought to most Administrations.
The best Administrations were the first and second Clinton Administration. The great Ron Brown was Secretary of Commerce. Until his sudden death, MBDA was very aggressive and motivated by his obvious interest in this organization under his command. Ron once visited Brazil and noticed the 51% Black population with about 6% of the economy. His response was to put an MBDC (Minority Business Development Center) right there in the heart of Rio.
The worst Administration was the first Obama Administration. The group they put in there had a hatred of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. It was coming down from the White House. It didn’t make since. It is kind of funny as I reflect on this. We didn’t need them. They needed us! They must report on their performance. The truth on that performance was that we, the largest Black business association in the world, was no longer interacting with this group. They were bound to fail in comparison with other Administrations. The biggest joke was when one of their dedicated career employees financed his own trip to attend a conference we were having in Houston, TX. He came to the conference venue but the DC MBDA refused to ship his exhibit table and collateral material. He sat at an empty 6-foot table.
Besides getting rid of the “sick minded”, the best thing MBDA could do is be truthful about its performance and work to improve. I noticed while working in Indianapolis that the local MBDC’s in Indiana would lie on their contracting numbers. I later found out that they were doing this nationally. They were copying the numbers my state office was posting and doing the same thing with the City of Indianapolis minority business numbers and taking credit for them. That was happening everywhere. It may still be happening.
I went looking for some Inspector General Reports on the MBDA. For some reason the latest report I could find was for Fiscal Year 2004. Here are the findings:
“In reporting its FY 2004 performance, the agency combined results from three significantly different programs -MBOC’, Business Development Centers (BDCs), and the Phoenix program. Combining the three programs inflated the numbers, undermined the usefulness of key performance measures for assessing the accomplishments of each individual program, and suggested that the programs are comparable, but they are not. The BDC program provides the highest level of services and the Phoenix program provides the lowest. The bulk of clients assisted in FY 2004 were from the Phoenix program”.
“The reliability of results reported by MBOCs to MBDA was diminished by unclear definitions, inconsistent guidance, inadequate verification, and poorly supported claims of the dollar value of procurements and contracts the committees helped clients achieve. Because of these weaknesses, several of the MBOCs we reviewed overstated their accomplishments.”
I am sorry for this outdated review but for some funny reason I could not find more current reviews from their website. During the 27 years, we have been trying to include them into our recipe of resources, it just falls short. It seems extremely strange that they suddenly went adversarial. There was probably a lot of things we could have helped them do but they didn’t want to take advantage of that. So, when I am asked the question on the future of the MBDA. I just don’t know.
DATED: May 30, 2017