White House Policy Advisor for Entrepreneurship and Innovation hosts countrywide black business leaders’ summits.
Two hundred black business leaders convened in Washington, DC during Black History Month to attend the first Black Entrepreneur and Innovation Summit hosted by Ashley Bell, Region IV Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and White House Policy Advisor for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Bell’s area of responsibility spans eight southeastern states including Alabama, Florida and Georgia, which have large numbers of black-owned businesses.
When asked why this event was a priority for him, Bell said, “I take my role very seriously. It’s not about recognition for me. I want my legacy to be about real contributions to supply chains and impact to the economy. Spotlighting these business success stories offer value. Understanding and addressing their challenges is critical to economic growth in these communities. We must learn to exchange ideas, so we can all benefit. That is what this summit is about.”
The two-day event was the hottest ticket in town and the SBA received an overwhelming number of requests to attend. According to Bell, the business leaders were sourced from SBA district directors, local chambers of commerce and a network of partner organizations. Their charge was to identify high caliber black business owners who were visible industry leaders doing exceptional work that would bring their leadership skills to Washington.
“My objective for organizing this event was to provide government entities and corporate leaders with high caliber suppliers who have the potential to compete and win government contracts. We focused on suppliers that were making big waves in their industries of manufacturing, technology, innovation and professional services,” Bell said.
The group of business leaders traveled from all over the southeast and beyond to meet with federal agency leaders to discuss challenges that black businesses face and to learn from agency representatives how to do business with the government and private sectors.
Challenges that the group raised were access to federal contracting opportunities, access to capital, business development support, and other pain points like the lack of sub-contracting requirements for large contract primes, outsourcing to foreign countries and small business tax issues.
Government panelists were on hand to address those challenges and to discuss contract opportunities within their agencies and other federal entities. Director of SBA Office of Government Contracting David Loines provided attendees information on the value of 8(a) certification, access to capital, and resources for identifying government contracts.
Loines directed attendees to the SBA’s website Lender Match, which connects lenders to the specific loan needs of small business owners. “The SBA is reaching more entrepreneurs today than ever before; and the agency has plans to do even more,” Loines said.
“The SBA backed $210 million in loans to African American owned small businesses across the eight southeastern states last fiscal year. $2.3 billion in federal contracts were awarded to the SBA’s 8(a) certified firms; small businesses that have proven to be economically disadvantaged. Over 100,000 startup and existing entrepreneurs last year were counseled and trained through the extensive resource partners we work with such as SCORE, the Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and Veterans Business Outreach Centers,” said Bell.
In his closing remarks, Bell assured attendees that the federal government is committed to doing business with companies like those in the room. He assured the group that resources will be made available so that these firms can successfully contribute to the federal government and corporate supply chains.
In addition to the full day summit, there was a pre-event meet and greet reception with Bell, and the Annual Black History Month Celebration Reception at the White House. Guests received a personal invitation from President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, who were both in attendance. In his speech to guests, Trump praised the African American community for its contributions to the country.
For more details, visit the SBA website.