The Prince George’s County Economic Development Corp. (PGCEDC) has created a mentor-protégé program to provide local businesses with technical assistance.

The program, two years in the making, was created in conjunction with Capital One Bank as part of the PGCEDC’s Small Business Initiative (SBI) and will provide grant funding and consultation to the county’s technology-based businesses.

“This relationship will allow the economic development corporation to expand its mission to assist small businesses in the critical area of strategic development,” said PGCEDC Interim President and CEO Gwen McCall. “We also understand the importance of having a great financial leader like Capital One partnering with us to assist our companies with business development.”

The two-pronged approach to the program was an unusual request, but it is one Charlotte Ducksworth, director of the SBI and Technology Assistance Center, is glad that Capital One fulfilled.

“When you can get people to make one commitment, that’s a good thing,” Ducksworth said. “But when you can get them to make two commitments, that’s a great thing, and we’re very excited about the two-fold commitment that they’ve made.”

The year-long program will match companies with a Capital One associate who will advise them in what those companies need to do for success. These companies will receive consultation in specific area of need, business development suggestions and one-on-one interaction with their associate for at least one hour per month.

Initially, there will be six companies involved in the program. Ducksworth says the companies have all had a measure of success and this initiative is expected to take them to another level.

“A lot of people may not realize the wealth of technology and innovation that we have here in Prince George’s County, but we have some outstanding homegrown companies creating new technologies,” she said. “We are always pleased to have a company like Capital One partner with us and help our companies go to another level.”

Capital One officials say the partnership was natural since it’s one of the largest banks headquartered in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Jim Taylor, director of community development banking at Capital One says the bank understands that in this economy, small businesses are necessary for growth.

“Capital One Bank is deeply rooted in this community and we are deeply committed to providing opportunities and providing resources for our local small business owners and entrepreneurs,” Taylor said. “We recognize the important role small business owners play in stimulating the economy.”

The program is not only welcomed by the PGCEDC and the companies involved, but it also caught the attention of the county executive’s office. Nathaniel Tutt, the county executive’s liaison for Economic Development in Prince George’s County, said that with the growth the county is expected to see, it will be led by the kinds of businesses targeted by this program.

“The county executive wants to let you know that he’s very committed to the mentor-protégé program that we are beginning to reinvigorate here at the economic development corporation,” Tutt said. “We’re looking forward to the days ahead and bringing a more vibrant technology economy to Prince George’s County.”


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO