Those of us in the business of maximizing opportunities for Black-owned businesses have become accustomed to acronyms... MWBEs, HUBZones, 8(a), DBE, and so on. I could probably fill a page if I worked really hard at it. Remembering all of them and their meanings demands that we slow down and make sure they're not just shorthand for continued shortchanging of the businessmen and women we work so hard for.
One highlight of the U.S. Black Chamber, Inc.'s (USBC) recently completed School of Chamber Management (SCM) was the signing of an MOU – Memorandum of Understanding – between our organization and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). According to Deputy Administrator Marie Johns, the goal of the document is to improve Black business owners' access to loan programs and other access to capital initiatives; government contracting programs such as the 8(a) program and the Women-Owned Small Business Program; and ensure availability of up-to-date information and access to SBA's extensive resource partner network. That sounds good, and if we're able to achieve these goals, we'll have done something that's not been done before.
What goes unsaid, however, is what this latest "treaty" between Black business and the U.S. government means to us. It means that we have a pact that guarantees that our government will listen to us, and our perspectives, while working diligently to align federal policies with the realities of the marketplace. It means that the SBA understands that a "one-size fits all" approach to meaningful inclusion in government procurement and resource allocation has not, does not and will not work.
It means, too, that the SBA believes that our approach to our mission – our 5 Pillars of Service – Advocacy, Access to Capital, Contracting, Entrepreneur Training, and Chamber Development – reflects our commitment to this critical work. It means that it's easy to see that what we're asking is "... not a hand-out, but a hand up!"
It means that we recognize change is hard, but we remain encouraged. Over the last three years, SBA has provided small businesses owners and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to not only survive, but thrive in tough economic times. We realize that through approved lenders the SBA has guaranteed more than $80 billion in loans to more than 150,000 businesses and worked to bring 1,000 community banks back to SBA lending.
If you're reading this, it means that you've accepted your own responsibility for helping to make this ongoing relationship work. Wherever you are – North, South, East or West – seek out your local SBA office and put them to work. If you're serious about doing all you can to make your business competitive, you'll find that your local Small Business Development Center or other SBA service provider is committed to aligning you with the resources needed to grow your enterprise.
We'll keep pushing too! Our service on the SBA's Council on Underserved Communities (CUC) gives us ready access to thought leaders and on-the-ground experts from across the country who all have their own reasons for helping the SBA be more responsive to ALL small businesses. The USBC and the SBA both recognize that any success earned as a result of this new partnership will be because we both realize it's a two-way street.
We've done our part – now it's time for you to do yours. Understand?
Ron Busby, Sr. is the President of the U.S. Black Chamber, Inc.