By Breonna Randall
Howard University News Service
Vice President Kamala D. Harris returned to her alma mater, Howard University, today for the Greater Washington Partnership’s announcement of $4.7 billion to support small businesses from Baltimore to Richmond, Virginia.
Howard’s President, Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick, welcomed Harris as a special guest who played a major role in the Greater Washington Partnership’s accomplishments. He highlighted the main objectives of supporting innovation and ambition through education and among small businesses in Black and Brown communities.
“In 1867 the 17th president of the United States, President Johnson, signed Howard into existence as the only federally chartered HBCU,” Frederick said. “He was a known misogynist and known racist. So today, you will hear from a woman, where he created the university that would propel her to the very same White House that he probably didn’t envision someone looking like her would occupy.”
Harris mentioned how it felt good to be celebrating this accomplishment at her alma mater. “We all love a homecoming,” she said.
“I believe America is a nation that is driven by the ambition and aspirations of her people,” she said. “And our economy to a great extent, therefore, is driven by ambition and aspiration of our small businesses.
The vice president stressed the importance of small businesses in the country and how they are the real moving force in its success. As leaders among new Black and Latinx businesses, women are least likely to be approved for loans by traditional financing institutions, she said, and that is why community lenders play a vital role in building the country into a great place economically.
“Small business owners work day and night to transform an idea into a reality,” Harris said. “And that energy, of course, drives our entire nation forward. It creates jobs. It drives innovation. It accelerates economic growth. And in America today, too many small businesses and too many entrepreneurs are also being left behind.”
Besides Harris, the event included U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo, U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Isabelle C. Guzman and key players who organized and raised money for the plan.
The Greater Washington Partnership is a civic alliance of business and community leaders committed to making the region a leading global center for commerce, innovation and shared prosperity. The $4.7 billion will go toward supplier diversity, racial equity and access to capital specifically to assist small Black and Latinx-owned businesses.
“The vision of the new combined entities really is to pay homage to what Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) are all about and why they were established in the first place” said Ellis Carr, president and CEO of Capital Impact Partners and CDC Small Business Finance.
Carr explained the importance of CDFIs, the first responders to small businesses since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We know every thriving region needs thriving small businesses, and the community advantage program makes credit more accessible to more small businesses who have not had the opportunity to access capital due to traditional financing,” Carr said.
The 10-year roadmap to close the equity gaps in the region and advance shared prosperity will be released in June, said Francesca Ioffreda, vice president of inclusive growth for the Greater Washington Partnership.
The funds are to be divided as follows: $2.6 billion for procurement spending to diverse suppliers and Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs); $1.5 billion for wealth-building opportunities in underrepresented communities, such as direct corporate investments in affordable housing and in community organizations that are leading place-based equity initiatives; and $619 million for financial investments to CDFIs and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs).
Breonna Randall is a reporter for HUNewsService.com.