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Muhamed Abdelhack covers business and economy for The Paper. He is a communications and journalism graduate of UNM.

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On March 5, 1969, President Richard Nixon established the Office of Minority Business Enterprise, a federal agency dedicated exclusively to the support and growth of minority-owned businesses. The agency, known as the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), offers various industry-focused services through MBDA Business Centers and is designed to provide minority-owned businesses with greater access to capital, contracts and markets. MBDA Business Centers are located across the country, usually in cities with the largest concentration of minority populations.

In 2020 the agency helped to create over 11,500 jobs nationally and helped secure nearly $7 billion in contracts. In Albuquerque the MBDA is operated by the City of Albuquerque’s Economic Development Department; and thanks to the introduction of new legislation called the Minority Business Resiliency Act of 2021, the MBDA is about to receive a boost in assistance.

“Small, local businesses have been hit hardest by the pandemic, with business owners of color and women-owned enterprises disproportionately impacted,” said Gabriela Marques, center director for the Albuquerque MBDA Business Center. “These same businesses are the economic and cultural backbone of our community, and we need to support them through the MBDA Business Center.”

The bill, which was presented by N.M. Senator Ben Ray Lujan (D), Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD.), Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and alongside several other Democratic representatives, is part of the Biden administration’s budget proposal for 2022. The bill would appoint an assistant secretary of commerce to manage the agency and increase funding for the MBDA by over 40 percent. The bill will see the expansion of MBDA offices to more communities and increase the agency’s grant-making capacity. “This bill will authorize the Minority Business Development Agency for the first time and increase the support it provides to businesses owned by Hispanic and Native American entrepreneurs,” said Sen. Lujan.

The MBDA currently offers assistance to minority business enterprises (MBEs) with $1 million or more in annual gross revenue or rapidly growing companies with $500,000 or more in revenue. Companies must be 51 percent owned or controlled by socially disadvantaged individuals, which is defined by the MBDA as individuals who have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias due to their identity of a member of a certain group. This includes Black, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

While the MBDA doesn’t offer direct grants, in 2019 the MBDA Business Centers helped minority-owned businesses gain access to more than $1.7 billion in capital nationally and secure over $3 billion in contracts. Beyond just client bid opportunities, the Albuquerque MBDA Business Center helps with certifications and registrations, lending and equity proposal packaging, capital lending access, strategic planning consultation and international trade assistance. Business owners can receive training sessions as well. “We are happy to chat with any business and see what are the next steps to support their growth,” said Gabriela Marques, ABQ Business Center director. For individuals and businesses interested in the Albuquerque MBDA Business Center’s resources, they can be contacted through their website at cabqmbdacenter.com or by calling (506) 376-7823 to set up an appointment.

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