Susan Au Allen
CEO and National President, U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation


May 25, 2021


For nearly a year during the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn, small businesses, including those owned by Asian Americans, struggled for their very survival. A new executive order could help these businesses—and other minority-owned businesses—as they regain their footing after a very tough year. And this in turn, could create more jobs and help solidify the recovery.

President Joe Biden’s Executive Order on “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through the Federal Government” could create opportunities for all minority businesses looking to become part of the federal government’s supply chain and this is no small deal.

Each year, the federal government spends trillions of dollars on products and services. More minority-owned businesses should recognize this as a huge business opportunity. Generally, in federal contracts, minority businesses compete directly with major corporations. However, they can also compete via a special pathway known as U.S. Small Business Administration-certified 8(a) small disadvantaged business set-aside contracts.

In fact, the federal government is not the only customer looking for a more diverse supply chain. An alliance of 18 financial institutions agreed to set aside $10 billion in contracts and funding in the next five years to benefit Black- and Latino-owned businesses. This is in addition to a 50-year-old minority business development program run by major corporations.

Today, there is no federal government-sanctioned minority business certification for the private sector. To participate in multi-billion-dollar programs like those run by most major corporations, businesses must first prove they are, in fact, minority-owned businesses.

Both the U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation (USPAACC) and the National Minority Supplier Development Council certify minority-owned businesses. The USPAACC began to certify Asian American-owned businesses in 1998 after major corporations had encouraged us to create a certification program to address existing disparities. At that time, few Asian Americans knew that major corporations were looking for qualified minority-owned business suppliers. The USPAACC travelled the country to educate them on how to take advantage of this opportunity.

The USPAACC certifies minority businesses of different backgrounds and helps introduce them to key procurement and contract decision-makers in both the government and corporate America. Just one such success story involves an Asian American-owned information technology business which grew from $4 million in annual revenue to $100 million—in just 10 years—after learning about federal contracting, being certified by the USPAACC, and connecting with a major firm through USPAACC’s 1-on-1 business matchmaking program.

Through the years, USPAACC’s work has added thousands of new suppliers to the corporate and government supply chain, increasing diversity and fostering competition in the minority-owned business procurement system for corporations and the government. Today, the USPAACC and other business development organizations across the country continue to help business owners achieve their American Dream.

This year’s celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month has taken on a vital and somewhat somber tone. It’s times like these which remind us of the vital importance of our mission. Notwithstanding the dual challenges of the coronavirus and racism, our diverse Asian American community stands together stronger than ever, fortified by our shared spirit of hope and resilience. Asian American businesses today are rebuilding in partnership with all Americans for a more open-minded and prosperous America for everyone.

About the authors

Susan Au Allen