Maryland Black Caucus Holds Awards Reception

Carla Peay | 10/7/2009, 9:41 p.m.

The advancement of small and minority businesses was the goal of the community members gathered at the Minority Business Awards Reception on Fri., Oct. 2 at the National Harbor in Prince George€s County. The Washington Informer publisher Denise Rolark Barnes was among the 22 honorees at the reception.

€The greatest source of job creation is small businesses and I believe we have a president and a Congress dedicated to growing this economy,€ said Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D- District 4). €I believe we are on the cusp of job creation in the global economy.€

The Awards Reception was sponsored by the Maryland Black Caucus Foundation and the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland. Delegate Herman Taylor (D- District 14) served as the host for the event.

€We take the lifting up of Black businesses very seriously, and we continue to fight for our fair share of dollars in our community,€ Taylor said. €We are looking for more than a level playing field; we need to start advancing on that field.€

Taylor also indicated that he is €testing the waters€ for a possible run for Congress in Maryland€s 4th District.

One major area in which minority participation is lacking is the gaming industry. Despite some initial opposition to bringing slot parlors into the state, a referendum was passed during the November elections that paved the way for slot machines.
€Slots are coming. We have to be a part of the process,€ said Catherine Pugh (D- District 40). €Of the four or five slot parlors that are coming to the state, there is only eight percent minority participation in one of those venues by African Americans. It costs approximately $350 million to build one slot parlor. For $35 million, we [African American businesses] can own a 10 percent stake in one of these venues,€ Pugh said. The first slot parlor in Maryland is expected to open in 2010.

The success of small and minority businesses are €an important priority€ in the governors€ office, said Christian Johansson of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

€We want to put small and minority businesses at the top of Maryland€s legislative agenda. We want to measure success by the number of billion dollar businesses we create,€ Johansson said. €We need a vision for the 21st century, and that is €how do we create wealth?€ We are committed to this at the state level.€

The Awards Reception was part of a full slate of events held Thu., Oct. 1 through Sat., Oct. 3 that included workshops and a youth summit in Annapolis. The workshops covered a variety of topics, including state investment opportunities, closing the achievement gap in the educational system and redistricting in the 2010 Census.

The Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland states as its mission: To provide leadership in developing, advocating and implementing programs and policies that serve the best interest of the Black community and to act as a legislative body on behalf of the Black community. Delegate Veronica L. Turner serves as the Caucus€ chair.

€In our community, we will continue to work hard,€ Turner said. €We are committed to find a way to close this budget gap.€