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Grant to help minority-owned businesses network, train, find funding

City officials speak with a man in a blue suit and a cowboy hat, while he stands in a bakery he owns.
Jahd Khalil
VPM News File
City officials visit Tony Dean, the operator of The Treat Shop RVA, during National Black Owned Business Month in August.

Just under 6% of the Richmond metropolitan area’s businesses are Black-owned.

Richmond accepted a small grant to help provide assistance to minority-owned — and specifically Black-owned — businesses Monday.

The $15,000 grant for the Office of Minority Business Development comes from the National League of Cities, a nonpartisan advocacy organization, and will go toward training, business networking and financing.

Minority business enterprises are firms that are majority-owned by U.S. citizens or legal resident aliens who are Black, Asian, Latino or Indigenous people, according to a 2021 audit of the Office of Minority Business Development.

Just under 6% of the Richmond metropolitan area’s businesses are Black owned, according to Lending Tree. That number is higher than most other U.S. cities, but disproportionate to the area’s population, which is 29.2% Black, according to the financial website.

The Richmond Free Press reported that 5% of city procurement went to non-white businesses, citing an OMBD report.

Richmond’s official goal, written into the city code, is to increase the value of all contracts going to MBEs and small businesses to the highest level that’s “reasonably achievable.”

In 2021, the city auditor analyzed 90 contracts, finding that contractors didn’t accomplish their stated goals to use good-faith efforts to subcontract with MBEs or emerging small business firms in 38 of those deals.

The agreement between the city and developers of the Diamond District, a large-scale redevelopment project near Scott’s Addition, requires evidence of developers’ good-faith efforts for 40% MBE and ESB participation in the project.

At an August event for Black male leaders, Floyd Miller, the head of the Metropolitan Business League, told Mayor Levar Stoney and Sen. Tim Kaine that during the past six years, procurement opportunities for minority businesses have not improved.

Miller is also involved with the implementation of the National League of Cities grant, ensuring at least 10 Richmond-area businesspeople will be able to complete an entrepreneurship curriculum, according to a letter from the mayor to the league.

Stoney listed two other bodies responsible for carrying out the grant: the Small Business Development Center, which will bolster connections with organizations specializing in work with minority business owners; and the OMDB, which will connect businesses with financing through surveying local banks and lenders.

“We go back to the two words: capacity and opportunity. It's like a chicken and egg, right?” said Stoney at an August event during National Black Business Month. “Let's focus on investing in the opportunities to grant programs and workshops and technical assistance, and then they can build up the capacity to compete for even larger projects.”

Consulting firm MGT is in the process of finalizing a study of Richmond programs for MBEs by analyzing procurement data from the city, said the company's Vernetta Mitchell.

MGT began its work in March 2022.

Jahd Khalil covers Virginia state politics for VPM News.
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