Conference Highlights Key Role Minority-Owned Businesses Play

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Minority business leaders in the Cape Fear region received tips on how to grow their business and took part in discussions on critical issues affecting business and economic growth during the inaugural Cape Fear Region Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week Conference held Dec. 15 on the UNCW campus.

Cape Fear MED Week recognizes the outstanding achievements of minority entrepreneurs and honors individuals and organizations that support minority business development. UNCW’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion and the Office of Facilities hosted the event.

Barboza Builders, Inc., Ivory’s Accessible Transport Services, Inc. and SEPI Engineering received special recognition for their leadership and commitment to the advancement of the minority business community during the event, and Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo presented a proclamation from the city.

Minority-owned businesses are growing faster than non-minority owned businesses, according to the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau. A study by the National Minority Supplier Development Council concluded that certified minority-owned business enterprises have an impact of more than $400 billion a year on the U.S. economy, and actively employ, either directly or indirectly, 2.2 million people, said Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli in his address to the attendees. Additionally, the report stated minority-owned businesses contribute nearly $49 billion a year in local, state and federal tax revenues.

“Those are impressive numbers that highlight the key role minority business owners play in communities across America, including ours,” Sartarelli said. 

In the past 40 years, the number of new businesses in the country has dropped 40 percent, especially in the 25-to-30-year-old age group, Sartarelli added. The university is committed to developing young entrepreneurs.

“Initiatives like these, as well as all the initiatives we have at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, that encourage more innovation and entrepreneurship are very important.”

UNCW is deeply committed to enriching the campus experience by supporting and enhancing diversity on many levels, said Sartarelli. He noted that the university was recently recognized for its efforts to improve graduation rates among underrepresented minorities. The university ranked 8th out of 500 institutions on The Education Trust’s list of most impressive gains in graduation rates by four-year public institutions in the nation.

“We believe in reaching meaningful goals at UNCW,” he said. “We have also established partnerships with regional minority-owned businesses, and we hope to see those relationships grow in the future.”

UNCW Men’s Basketball Coach and keynote speaker Kevin Keatts shared lessons he learned during his coaching career to illustrate how to be a successful business leader. He encouraged business leaders to always approach the job as if they are on a one-day contract.

“If you go in one a one-day contact, you are going to work as hard as you can,” he said. “So, make sure you renew that contract.”

Cape Fear MED Week is among the events being held nationwide as part of the national observance of MED Week, created by presidential proclamation in 1983.

-- Venita Jenkins