WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, praised Senate approval of an amendment to authorize and expand the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) of the Department of Commerce. The amendment, which was sponsored by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin, D-Md., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Tim Scott, R-S.C., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, is now included in the infrastructure package being debated on the Senate floor.
Wicker authored several provisions of the final amendment that would help the MBDA leverage the expertise of historically black colleges and universities to expand opportunities for minority business owners and entrepreneurs, particularly in rural America.
Yesterday, Wicker spoke at a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee that approved the Minority Business Development Act of 2021, legislation that forms the basis of the amendment.
“The Minority Business Development Agency has been a lifeline for many minority business owners and entrepreneurs seeking to start and grow their businesses,” Wicker said. “I am pleased that my fellow cosponsors of the MBDA Act supported my provisions to help expand MBDA resources to leverage the expertise of our nation’s HBCUs. The MBDA brings tremendous value in helping businesses create jobs and promote entrepreneurship.”
The senators amendment would expand the geographic reach of the MBDA by authorizing the creation of regional MBDA offices and rural business centers to be administered through Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and minority serving institutions (MSIs), and it would build the next generation of entrepreneurs in minority communities by creating a new program to foster entrepreneurship at HBCUs and MSIs. The amendment would also increase the MBDA’s grant-making capacity to partner with community and national nonprofits engaged in private and public sector development as well as research.
The amendment would authorize $110 million in annual funding to the MBDA through FY2025—more than double the agency’s FY2021 appropriation of $48 million. The amendment also:
- makes the MBDA more effective by putting into law the mission and goals of the agency and giving it the proper tools to carry them out successfully;
- creates an advisory council to consult federal agencies on supporting MBEs and coordinate federal MBE programs;
- creates a presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed Under Secretary of Commerce for Minority Business Development to lead the agency; and
- mandates additional reporting to ensure responsible use of funding.
The amendment includes language from the Minority Business Resiliency Act of 2021, which was introduced by Senator Cardin in April 2021 and cosponsored by 20 senators; and the Reaching America’s Rural Minority Businesses Act of 2021 introduced by Senators Wicker and Tim Kaine, D-Va., in May 2021.
The amendment’s language is identical to the Minority Business Development Act of 2021, which was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee on August 4, 2021.
Wicker has been a strong supporter of the MBDA and expanding opportunities for HBCUs. Wicker recently announced a grant to bring a new MBDA center to Mississippi.
The Minority Business Development Agency was first established through executive order in 1969. It is the only federal agency solely dedicated to the growth and global competitiveness of minority business enterprises.