To grow economy: diversity, inclusion



When it comes to taking care of business, the Florida Advisory Council on Small and Minority Business Development noted in an annual report that persistence, perseverance and simply doing the right thing are magic bullets for progress. Absent among the named magic bullets was budget.

Yet, as a resourceful, knowledgeable group, the council relies upon its members, constituent networks, professional volunteers and the Florida Department of Management Services (DMS). The council aims for state leaders to make sure that business inclusion is a part of all economic development efforts statewide.

The council’s distinct powers and duties are in Florida’s law books, which articulate that the group advises and assists the secretary of (DMS) in carrying out the secretary’s duties with respect to small and minority businesses as well as economic and business development.

Council duties include researching small and minority business roles in the state’s economy; reviewing emerging topics relating to small and minority business/economic development; studying the ability of financial markets and institutions to meet small business credit needs and ensuing impact of government demands; assessing the implementation of the state’s economic development comprehensive plan from the standpoint of inclusion; assessing the reasonableness and effectiveness of state agencies’ efforts to assist minority business enterprises; and advising executive leadership, including the governor, on matters relating to small and minority business development, which are important to international strategic planning and activities of this state.

With vim and vigor, the council supports infusing Florida’s economic development initiatives with a diversity and inclusion paradigm. Notably, this group comprises supplier diversity practitioners, laypersons, financiers, entrepreneurs and people with business development expertise and select nontraditional stakeholders whose views and recommendations are mutually beneficial.

The council’s vision is principled delivery of products, goods and services needed by state agencies and quasi-state entities for a more vibrantly inclusive Florida.

Towards this end are five recommendations that can spur business growth and job creation in Florida’s race and gender neutral business landscape:

•  Establish a Direct Support Organization to implement the mission of the Secretary of DMS in support of small and minority businesses per statute;

•  Align legislation and policy, considering current political and business climate, for optimal relevancy, credibility and accountability with business inclusion principles and paradigm with respect to procurement, capital needs of small businesses, access to the marketplace, economic development and job creation;

•  Support Florida’s microenterprises as part of the small business economic development continuum;

•  Create equity capital opportunities for small businesses through tools considered non-traditional such as private placement memoranda, capital formation and business incentives;

•  Monitor Enterprise Florida, Inc.’s (EFI) capital programs utilization through a business inclusion lens.

Further, the recent U.S. Chamber’s Enterprising Report cites a National Governors Association survey of entrepreneurs that suggested five critical factors state government can influence to foster small business start-ups and expansions: Diversity in sources of capital; an enabling culture; strong local networks; supportive infrastructure; and entrepreneur-friendly government.

Florida can do this.

In furtherance of business inclusion, the council is one of six organizations partnering with EFI to improve access to capital, access to the marketplace and enhance EFI’s responsiveness to small and minority business development issues. The others are the Florida Association of Minority Business Enterprise Officials, Florida Coalition for Microenterprise Development, Florida Consortium of Black Businesses, Hispanic Business Initiative Fund and Southern Florida Minority Supplier Diversity Council.

Cheryl S. Gonzalez is chair of the Florida Advisory Council on Small and Minority Business Development and director, Equal Opportunity and Diversity, University of North Florida.

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