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Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves at National ACE


Thank you, President Tong, for that introduction. And thank you all for joining today’s listening session.

As a descendant of one of America’s first minority patent-holders, I understand the importance of supporting minority entrepreneurs, innovators, and businesses.

We have one overarching goal at our department: to improve America’s competitiveness so that our workers and companies succeed in the global economy. And equity underpins every aspect of what we do. This pursuit of equity is not just the right thing to do – it’s the right thing to do for our economy.

Closing the opportunity gap between minority-owned and non-minority-owned businesses could add more than $6 trillion to the economy; increase minority business enterprises’ total paid employees to 31 million; and increase the number of minority-owned firms to more than 12 million.

That’s why we’re pleased that President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law made the Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency a permanent part of the federal government.

We’re also excited that just last week, the Senate confirmed Don Cravins to be MBDA’s Under Secretary.

MBDA has been hard at work supporting the growth and competitiveness of minority business enterprises and entrepreneurs. I’d like to highlight a few of MBDA’s recent successes.

As you know well, MBDA provided grant funding to National ACE that helped AANHPI business owners apply for federal resources and navigate the changing economy in the wake of the pandemic. Thank you for being good stewards of this federal funding.

Last year, MBDA awarded nearly $4 million in federal funding to establish the MBDA American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian Projects, which are supporting Tribal and native business growth.

MBDA also awarded a grant to the University of Hawaii – a Native Hawaiian Serving Institution – to operate a Minority Colleges and Universities pilot project. The project is laying the foundation for a future generation of entrepreneurial leaders and innovators.

We’re also excited that the Treasury Department and MBDA are teaming up to deploy $100 million of the State Small Business Credit Initiative Technical Assistance funding to support underserved entrepreneurs seeking greater access to growth capital. MBDA will release a competitive funding application later this year.

MBDA’s Enterprising Women of Color initiative is providing support, training, and technical assistance to minority women entrepreneurs. And earlier this year, MBDA issued a Broad Agency Announcement seeking market solutions to address the barriers to access to capital for minority business enterprises.

But the Commerce Department’s work to support minority entrepreneurs isn’t limited to MBDA.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Council on Inclusive Innovation is expanding the scope of the innovation ecosystem to reach communities that have historically been left out.

Last week, the Economic Development Administration announced the 32 awardees of the $500 million Good Jobs Challenge, which is funded by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. The program will expand access to the workforce and increase labor participation with a focus on job quality and equity.

And the International Trade Administration launched a new partnership with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses to equip small business owners with resources to help them reach international markets.

These are just a few of the actions we’re taking at Commerce to support minority businesses. But I’m here today to hear from each of you. We want to know about the challenges you’re facing, and how Commerce can better serve the businesses and the communities you represent.

Let me thank you again for your work advocating for AANHPI businesses across the country. Together, we can continue supporting AANHPI innovators and entrepreneurs, and secure an equitable and prosperous future for all Americans.

I’m looking forward to our discussion. Thank you.