Seminar targets minority businesses

March 09, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

In her 46 years in business, Carol Craig never knew her shop was eligible for state certification as a minority business enterprise.

The state defines a minority business as one that is at least 51 percent owned or controlled by one or more minorities. Minority, by definition, includes women and people who are African-American, Hispanic-American, Native American or disabled.

State certification means better access to government contracts and grant money, said Katie Knowlin, director of the state's Office of Minority Business Enterprise, during a minority business seminar Wednesday night at the Grand Venice Inn.

Hagerstown City Councilwoman Alesia D. Parson-McBean and Deborah Everhart, the city's director of economic development, coordinated the event. Knowlin was one of the featured speakers.


Representatives from the Small Business Development Center, Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce also spoke.

During the seminar, state officials explained that businesses that register with the state have the opportunity to compete with state contracts open specifically to minority-owned or -operated businesses.

"There's always a piece of the action somewhere," said Carlos Abinader, outreach program manager for the state's Office of Minority Business Enterprise. "And if you don't apply, you won't get in."

At the seminar, business owners such as Craig learned about opportunities and resources available to minorities businesses.

"I'm amazed at the response," said Craig, who owns Hair After Style Quarters, a Hagerstown salon that specializes in hair replacement. "A lot of people don't even know about the certification program."

Twins Lela Greene and Lola Mosby, owners of L&L Classic Clothing boutique in Hagerstown, said they did not know about the state program.

"We're looking to expand our business and we wanted to know our options," said Greene, a black woman from Hagerstown.

Parson-McBean said the timing was right to start encouraging minority businesses in the city to take advantage of the opportunity.

"We are enhancing Hagerstown," Parson-McBean said. "It's just a way of empowering (people)."

Knowlin said there are about 4,000 businesses registered as Minority Business Enterprises. According to the Office of Minority Business Enterprise, a division of the Maryland Department of Transportation, 19 businesses in Hagerstown are registered as minority businesses.

Knowlin said programs targeting minority business were necessary because of the persistent realities of racism and discrimination.

"When we get to a place when we have a level playing field, then there will be no need for this program," Knowlin said.

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