By William K. Alcorn
Would-be business owners with nothing more than an idea, seasoned business owners and others all along the spectrum can benefit from the reopening of Mahoning-Youngstown Community Action Partnership’s Minority Business Assistance Center.
It’s ready to help people get their ventures started, grow, or land that elusive big contract that will put them on the map.
Charlie Moss of Youngstown, who cleans homes as part of her job as a home health-care nurses aide, wants to start an independent cleaning business.
Luebertha Greer of Boardman plans to expand her Loving and Dependable Home Health Care business by adding an adult day-care component.
Winning some of the millions of dollars in state contracts set aside for minority-owned businesses is a goal for Brian Reynolds of Youngstown, who has operated Reynolds Transportation for 10 years.
Jerome E. Franklin, who operates the Starting Lineup barbershop on Hillman Way in Youngstown, wants to grow his other business, JEF Enterprises, and its featured product, the Nail Biter fingernail clipper.
Inspired by Lebron James’ fingernail-biting, the patent-pending Nail Biter is adorned with images of everything from President Barack Obama to sports mascots and cartoon characters.
Moss, Greer and Franklin were among the mostly minority entrepreneurs who crowded into MYCAP’s boardroom recently to listen to state development officials in hopes of finding paths to the resources they need to make their business dreams become reality.
Also present was David W. Price, president of Price Builders & Developers in Cleveland, a successful minority-owned general contracting business, who learned on his own how to plug into government contracts.
“You have to work hard and listen to what the state says. It is sincere about offering opportunities. It has brought me a long way in 14 years,” said Price.
The vision of MBAC, financed by a $75,000 grant from the Ohio Development Services Agency, is to be a catalyst for the growth of high-performing, minority- owned businesses by providing counseling, resources and assistance.
The overall goal is the creation of wealth for minority-owned and socially and financially disadvantaged businesses, said Chauncey Hilson, program director.
Sharon Smith, assistant deputy chief of the Ohio Development Services Agency’s Office of Business Assistance, emphasized the need as a first step that minority and disadvantaged businesses be state certified.
To be certified as a minority business, at least 51 percent of the enterprise must be owned or controlled by a member of the disadvantaged groups: African- American, Hispanic, Native American or Asian American. Encouraging Diversity, Growth and Equity certified businesses are enterprises owned by the economically and socially disadvantage, Smith said.
Smith said there are tremendous opportunities for minority businesses if they are certified.
For example, she said there are $350 million in state contracts set aside for certified minority-owned or controlled businesses between now and June. The 15 percent minority set-aside is not a goal; it is the law, and Gov. John Kasich has said the law will be enforced, Smith said.
Also, she said, there are many opportunities in Ohio’s burgeoning oil and gas industry with the development of Utica shale.
There also are funding and bonding programs offered by the state, said Allen McConnell, loan and bond officer in the Office of Business Assistance.
“I can’t stress enough that you need to take advantage of the services available through MBAC, and they are free,” Smith said.
“We are excited about the opportunity to come back to the table and prove ourselves,” said Robin R. Walton, MYCAP executive director.
“We are ready to work with all partners — businesses and funders — to contribute to the economic development of the Mahoning Valley,” Walton said.