October 6, 2022
Undersecretary of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency
Senior Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Outreach, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
To advance equality of opportunity for all Americans, government and private sector leaders must facilitate discussions, diversify their workforce, and accelerate economic growth for minority small businesses.
During the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s third annual National Summit on Equality of Opportunity, Don Cravins, the Undersecretary of Commerce for the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), discussed MBDA’s impact and future opportunities for minority business owners.
Minority Business Owners Are Voicing Concerns Across the Country
In his new role as Undersecretary, a key aspect of Cravins’ job is to speak with government agencies, private citizens, and corporations about minority business issues. In these discussions regarding challenges and barriers facing minority business enterprises, Cravins has gained unique insight.
“I'm hearing a disconnect between what [minority business owners] are hearing from Washington — that we have invested a bipartisan infrastructure bill of $1.2 trillion — and [how] this is going to create new infrastructure for our country,… provide broadband to people who may have not been able to have, access, or afford it in the past,… [and] change the bridges, the roads, and the schools,” Cravins said. “Those business owners are concerned that they may not have a part to play in doing that.”
With this insight, Cravins acknowledges that these communities are here to make a change.
“We African Americans … don't want to miss this revolution,” Cravins said. “We don't want to miss this once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-generation investment in our communities that men and women on both sides of the aisle fought very hard to get passed.”
Joint Efforts Are Asking Larger Members to Support Smaller Businesses
Through a joint effort with the MBDA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Cravins believes minority businesses can get much-needed support to become stronger, more successful, and resilient.
“I'm hoping some of your larger members will look at opportunities to help beef up some of those small businesses so that maybe they can do … government work they weren't prepared to do in the past,” Cravins said.
Highlighting the importance of diversification within a business, he explained how many businesses weren’t prepared during crucial moments in history.
“Many companies missed the moment during George Floyd and during the pandemic because they didn't have the people there even to help [them create] a message for the moment,” Cravins said. “When things in our country happen, having people from those communities — from that walk of life — to explain why those things may be happening will make you a better [and] stronger company.”
The Top Priorities of the MBDA Include Expansion Efforts
Looking to the future, Cravins sees the importance of the MBDA and its continued impact on small businesses and minority communities. Through the agency’s expanded efforts, he hopes its impacts will be felt in those communities.
“In three years, I hope I'm able to say … the country did not miss the moment,” Cravins explained. “We invested in ourselves, not only economically and financially, but … in our businesses. We created wealth and generational change for all sorts of Americans.
“I hope [to say] I created a foundation, along with the men and women at the MBDA who are there now, for a new agency that 20 years down the road will be very impactful,” he continued. “I hope someday the MBDA works itself out of work — it works itself into being obsolete.”
From the Series