Now in its 40th year, the program is expanding to include women-owned businesses
"Arkansas' Minority and Women-Owned businesses have a unique opportunity to increase their market share in their chosen industry while enhancing our thriving economy," said Governor Asa Hutchinson. "By expanding the program, we are actively supporting our current minority and veteran-owned businesses while potentially creating a new generation of women-owned entrepreneurs with widened access to state business."
Allowing women-owned businesses to partake in Act 1080 not only helps these small businesses compete for state contracts, but it also helps state agencies meet the diversity spending target.
The Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce led the announcement of the program expansion in Northwest Arkansas this morning, one of three press conference announcements across the state. Steve Clark, President & CEO, and Chung Tan, Director of Economic Development of the Fayetteville Chamber led the press conference.
Local women business owners Dr. Holly Andersen of Uptown Eyes and Lakisha Bradley of Emmaculate Image talked about what this expansion of opportunity would mean for their business.
"Although it's important that we give minority and women-owned businesses the infrastructure and resources for success and longevity, each business owner must take advantage of these opportunities, and that includes going through the certification process and participating in training and other opportunities provided by AEDC and our partners," said Mike Preston, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
A business must be 51 percent owned by a minority or woman or a group of minorities or women to apply for a state contract. The business must also be legal to operate in the United States and Arkansas, as well as owned by a permanent resident of Arkansas and earn a revenue no more than $10 million.
Pat Brown, director of the Minority Business Enterprise and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Division said, "The origins of this program date back to Act 544, which created the division in 1977. During the 40 years of the program, we have seen various amendments to the law, including a transfer from the Department of Commerce to AEDC, and the implementation of the 2003 certification program. This expansion is an obvious next step to promote small and women-owned businesses in Arkansas, and stimulate the growth of the program."
Certification benefits include receiving notifications to conduct business with state agencies, join in various training, networking and educational events and opportunities. An issuance of an official certified minority business enterprise (CMBE) or a certified women-owned business enterprise (CWBE) certificate will be issued to each establishment.
According to Brooke Vines, owner of Vines Media and a member of the Arkansas Minority Business Advisory Council, "Before this most recent legislative session, Arkansas was one of only six states that did not include women in this particular certification. Many states require that a certain percentage of a bid go to a woman or minority-owned business, not to exclude men but to ensure that diversity is a part of all the decisions. It is typically a fraction of the total contract, but it gives boutique shops an opportunity to get experience on large contracts that they would otherwise not be considered."
About AECD's Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Division:
The Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Division of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission promotes the growth and sustainability of minority and women-owned business enterprises by providing them with real world technical and professional assistance, certification, procurement, networking, capital and contracting opportunities while utilizing our partners in state and federal government, higher education, lending institutions, and the private sector. Our main goal is to help these minority and women-owned business enterprises contribute to the economic growth in Arkansas.