Prince George’s Community College’s Center for Minority Business Development (CMBD) has a groundbreaking accelerator program which is helping to create minority business opportunities in Prince George’s County.

The Peterson Co., which is building National Harbor, in conjunction with the Prince George’s County Council and the Office of the County Executive, realized that there wasn’t enough minority business participation in the construction of National Harbor.

So, through the county, Peterson gave a $5 million grant to the college to help prepare local minority businesses to bid successfully on projects at the harbor.

“Certainly, if we build their capacity to build and be successful in the bid, then companies can also begin to bid on other construction or development projects across the county and region,” said Charlene Dukes, Ph.D., president of PGCC.

“This really is a win-win for the county by recognizing the number of minority businesses we have in Prince George’s County and what those businesses can add relative to the quality of life in the county.”

Carl Brown Jr., executive director of the CMBD, has an extensive background in the private sector, local, state and federal agencies in addition to his time working for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. He’s seen minority businesses fail time after time and says he’s put together a plan that will make them successful.

“I’ve put together a program that will help you stay in business and also sustain and grow your business,” Brown said. “I’ve seen it up close and personal with successful companies.”

One company that has benefited is Warren Brothers Construction. Aaron Warren, who runs the company with his brother Shane, was granted a contract to weatherize homes of low-income families. Warren says in this economy, the training has helped tremendously in keeping his business viable. “In a recession, having those smaller, quicker jobs coming through – bringing in quicker revenue while you wait for larger jobs that have revenue come in a lot slower – will obviously help sustain our company,” Warren said.

The contractor said because of the increased workload, he’s been able to interview and hire Prince George’s County residents, which he believes brings the program “full circle.”

Program officials said the program distinguishes itself because it tailors itself to the needs of each individual company, providing a consulting, assessment and business development plan unique to each business. And it does this at no financial cost to the companies. All the companies have to do is commit to doing community service, commit to the program and complete the assignments they’re given.

Warren’s company is just one of seven currently in the program. Dukes said each company is as enthusiastic about the support they’ve been receiving from the CMBD as Warren. “They all appreciate what we’re trying to do for them,” said Dukes.

Brown, however, is not resting. He says he’ll continue to tweak the program to make sure it stays ahead of the curve. He understands that times change and with that, the program will need to adapt.

“I continuously evaluate our programming,” said Brown. “I continuously evaluate our resource partners that are delivering the educational aspect. I continuously monitor our participants to make sure they’re not just going through the motions.”

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO