Feds Extend Support For Minneapolis Minority Business Center

New grant provides $1.5 million over five years.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency has announced $1.5 million in additional funding to continue support for the MBDA Business Center in downtown Minneapolis.
The business center is operated by the nonprofit Metropolitan Economic Development Association, which is the grant recipient. The program calls for the feds to provide $302,400 annually over a five-year period to MEDA.
“It’s good news,” said George Jacobson, director of the Minneapolis MBDA Business Center.
Jacobson said that the business center, which is located within MEDA’s offices, first opened in September 2011 thanks to a previous grant from MBDA. He said that the previous grant provided $250,000 per year. The grant program is designed to assist minority-owned companies with job creation and business development.
“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with the MBDA,” said Joanna Ramirez Barrett, MEDA’s vice president of business solutions. “We see this work as vital to our state’s economy.”
Ramirez Barrett noted that while the bulk of its clients are in the metro area, the program does have clients throughout the state of Minnesota. She added that MEDA has its own loan fund for lending to businesses, but also works to help connect clients with banks for financing.
“On average, we’re working in a more intensive way with about 80 clients per year,” said Jacobson.
Jacobson added that he is seeing a trend among business center clients seeking assistance with mergers and acquisitions, noting that MEDA assisted on a recent $6 million acquisition in the manufacturing sector. He declined to identify the companies involved in the deal.
The Minority Business Development Agency announced the new funding on Thursday morning, along with similar grants for centers in Memphis, Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix. Since last week, the MBDA has announced grants for business centers in 14 cities; additional announcements are expected.
Tawanna Black, executive director of Northside Funders Group, says that her organization has worked with MEDA on efforts to grow businesses and improve workforce development in north Minneapolis. She is encouraged by the new round of federal funding.
“We partner with MEDA in our economic development work,” said Black. “They’ve been supportive of North Side businesses.”
TCB took a look at the challenges and possibilities for business in north Minneapolis in its March issue.
Also on Thursday morning, Gov. Mark Dayton announced “an independent audit of the state’s procurement, human rights and affirmative action practices. The audit, urged by local chapters of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), will review how the state administers existing laws aimed at ensuring equal opportunity for Minnesota businesses and individuals.”
The audit will review five years of state data and is slated to be completed before the next legislative session. Gov. Dayton has previously proposed $100 million for new initiatives to address racial economic disparities in the state.