Budget Part 4: Creating jobs for all through minority-owned business

Dear Resident:

Small businesses are a bedrock of our economy and our communities. Small business owners bring a passion and vitality to their work that enriches all of our lives.

For too long, I have heard that Montgomery County does not provide enough support for Black-, Hispanic-, Asian-, and other minority-owned businesses. I wanted to do something about that, because most jobs are on the payroll of a small business. If we can help all small businesses grow, we’ll create more success for the County.

But COVID has taken a deep toll on our small businesses, forcing many to shut doors and defer lifelong dreams. And minority-owned businesses have been hit the heaviest here, deepening existing inequities in small businesses ownership and entrepreneurship.

We need to help our entrepreneurs and businesses recover, start new businesses or just grow and expand to their full potential. One strategy our County can get behind is boosting minority-owned businesses, which have tremendous potential to grow and create jobs.

I was struck by a compelling new study from the Brookings Institute about the potential for gains from helping Black-owned businesses grow. Brookings looked at the Washington, DC region and found that if we could grow Black-owned businesses to match the Black share of our population, there would be 33,573 more Black businesses in the region creating more than 105,000 new jobs.

This study confirmed what I already knew, that our County has a lot to gain from strengthening minority-owned businesses. That is why about a year ago, I set out working with the NAACP, Montgomery County Black Collective, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Asian-American entrepreneurs to craft a new investment strategy for our economic development program that is focused on minority owned small business.

This initiative is a strong companion for new programs we are initiating to boost growth from life sciences and other critical sectors.

That is why I am pleased to share that Councilmember Jawando and I proposed, and the Council approved, new funding to our economic development program to support business growth for minority- and women-owned businesses. Thankfully, the Executive has agreed to support this work.

Our timing couldn’t be better, as some of the largest corporations in the region have now also pledged a multi-billion investment strategy for minority-owned businesses. We need to move quickly to help our businesses compete for these opportunities.

The funding that I have proposed with Councilmember Jawando, supported by the full Council, will add the following programs:

  1. A Center for Minority-, Female- and Disabled-owned (MFD) Entrepreneurship in our incubator network, providing programs for entrepreneurs county-wide as well as space in our downtown Silver Spring Incubator (SSI), where we have a thriving Black-owned business community;
  2. A Leadership Academy organized by the Maryland Black Chamber of Commerce to give entrepreneurs access to training resources to help them grow their businesses;
  3. A feasibility study to create a new Community Development Financial Institution that would raise and lend funds to MFD small businesses;
  4. Formation of a Black business database through the Black Business Council, to help us better identify and classify the businesses located in the County and then engage with them;
  5. On-site management assistance at the Silver Spring Innovation Center from experienced small business consultants with the Maryland Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The SBDC will also offer management training and coaching through their highly successful “CEO Accelerator” program to help entrepreneurs build profitability and sustainability;
  6. For Hispanic owned businesses, the SBDC will offer targeted procurement assistance as well
  7. Support for the Maryland Procurement Technical Assistance Center to provide small businesses with assistance in obtaining corporate contracts as well as federal, state and Montgomery County procurement prime and subcontracts;
  8. Funding for the Nonprofit Village to provide for support and training for nonprofits, including those founded and operated by Black executives; and
  9. Support from the Montgomery County Black Collective for leadership and stakeholder engagement, community engagement forums, training and technical assistance, a community online information portal and a community engagement assessment and environmental scan.

These initiatives follow months of extensive discussions with Black business owners, leaders, residents, county staff, Councilmembers, external consultants, and other stakeholders.

I am eager to see how the programs develop. If you would like more information about the initiatives, please contact me at councilmember.riemer@montgomerycountymd.gov and I will put you in touch with Renée Sprow in my Council office, who is leading this initiative on my behalf.

Hans Riemer