Entrepreneurs Optimistic Despite Economic Trends

August 24, 2012

Business, Feature

Doing Business in the Bluegrass

By:  George Addison

Article first published as Entrepreneurs Optimistic Despite Economic Trends on Technorati

Today it’s not unusual to hear people discuss the “Changing Face of America” as it relates to diversity and longevity. According to Ron Crouch, Former Director of Research and Statistics for Kentucky, “We are experiencing two revolutions; as diversity growth is changing the future face of America and longevity is driving our population growth.”

Crouch goes on to say, “states like Kentucky and West Virginia are aging faster than the United States and are significantly less diverse, with declining populations of children and a younger workforce.” He further states, “we also need to make sure all of our population, regardless of their skin color, age or gender is educated, skilled and prepared for a new 21st century.”

It appears this message is being embraced even during slow economic growth. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Bluegrass State of Kentucky. Yearly, over a three-week period, entrepreneurs gather in Louisville, Lexington and Hopkinsville to encourage, support, network and develop a more diverse and equitable business climate. Strong leadership is crucial in keeping these events relevant.

Louisville – Tri-State Minority Supplier Development Council

Ty Gettis, President and CEO of the Tri-State Minority Supplier Development Council (TSMSDC), based in Louisville, is a regional council that serves Kentucky, West Virginia and South Central Indiana. I asked Mr. Gettis how does Tri-State help its members grow during a tough economy? He replied, “The economy has hurt everyone and has been challenging to all over the last few years. What we’ve done is beefed up supplier diversity training workshops. Every year we send MBE’s to the Tuck program at Dartmuth, the Kellog Program at Northwestern University, or the Minority business program at the University of Wisconsin. We implemented a center of excellence program for top performing MBE’s to give them resources as well as advocate joint ventures, acquisitions and strategic partnerships. We do all the things that any majority business would do to make sure that their businesses survive in a tight economy.”

Lexington – Lexington Minority Business Expo

Less than an hour’s drive from Louisville, the City of Lexington is benefiting from

the growing influence of the Lexington Bluegrass MBE – now in its tenth year, the organization is lead by Anthony Wright.  A strong supporter of the event, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray says, “Whenever you can bring people together and share and celebrate then that’s good for the community. What we gain from these kinds of events is often the stuff that we don’t even recognize. Its just getting to know other people and getting ideas from them, making the contacts, making the connections. Especially when you’re starting a business.  I was a salesman growing up and I realized that you have to reach out, you got to make some contacts and knock on doors that you might not want too and that’s hard and its tough but that’s often what business is about.”

Hopkinsville – Minority Enterprise Development Week – MED Week

In Hopkinsville, Henry Snorton, III, CEeD spearheads the Minority Enterprise Development -MED Week effort.  Asked about the value of what attendees take away from his event Snorton said, “ I believe that one of the key things people take away from our event is to make sure you have the right people at the table.  That’s one of the things we try to do very well.  Whether it’s a congressman, the SBA, the Federal Reserve, the Governor’s office or business owners you must have the right people at the table.  To drive home that importance, a friend once told me that if you’re not at the table it usually means you are on the menu.”

Celebrating its 24th year, the MED Week has a strong history of collaboration with government, public and private entities – celebrating the contributions, success and achievements of minority-owned businesses and those that support minority enterprise development.

First District Congressman, Ed Whitfield, attended MED Week and discussed some of the regulatory challenges facing businesses and stressed why it’s important to support these events, saying, “Small businesses still create about two out of every three new jobs in America and I believe that small businesses have the best opportunity to lead us out of this sluggish economy that we’ve had, and our unemployment rate as you know nationwide is about 8.3 percent and so this conference is about providing information through government agencies as well as private entities of avenues that minority owned businesses can use to grow their businesses and create jobs.  I wanted to talk to them about the impact that decisions in Washington have on trying to create jobs. I think it is so important that these small businesses thrive and be successful.”

Efforts by leaders such as Henry Snorton, III; in Hopkinsville, Ty Gettis in Louisville and Anthony Wright in Lexington have Kentucky on a path of collaboration and inclusion that may well result in their cities being mentioned in the same breath as those known for a solid record of success for minority owned businesses such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Rock Hill, St. Louis, New York, Alexandria, DC, Dallas – Fort Worth and others.

Based on the Census Bureau Survey of Business Owners (2007), minority owned businesses grew from 4 million to 5.8 million and generated $137.5 billion in revenues, an increase of 53.1% over receipts in 2002. Snorton and others hope the growth of minority owned businesses in Kentucky will create new opportunities and add to the overall growth of minority businesses nationwide.

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