Media release

McKee Administration and Rhode Island Foundation launch $150,000 initiative to promote growth of and support for minority-owned businesses

Work will combine robust local business community engagement as well as best practices from around the nation

Governor Dan McKee and The Rhode Island Foundation today announced the launch of a $150,000 initiative to enhance the growth of and support for minority-owned businesses.

“Supporting and growing our small business sector in Rhode Island has been one of the top priorities of our Administration, but we need to ensure that growth and success are attainable for all Rhode Island business owners, especially those from underserved communities that may not have equal access to business opportunities,” said Governor Dan McKee. “I am proud to be part of this initiative to ensure that minority-owned businesses can flourish here in Rhode Island, and thank the Rhode Island Foundation and Secretary Pryor for their leadership in spearheading this study.”

“We are committed to supporting this expanding and important minority-owned business segment of the state’s business sector that was especially hard hit by the pandemic. This effort builds upon our long-time commitment to small business growth and jobs and to equity and inclusion as a key to the economic success of all Rhode Islanders,” said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO.

“The growth and success of minority-owned businesses is a priority for us,” said Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor. “Minority-owned enterprises were severely impacted by the COVID crisis and it’s important for us to partner even more with this community and offer an even stronger structure for support. It is critical we take significant action at this stage, and this initiative is one meaningful step in the right direction.”

The Providence-based Multicultural Innovation Center and national consultant Camion Associates are performing the work, which will include:

  • Creating a database of Black-, Latino-, Asian-, Indigenous- and multi-racial-owned businesses currently in operation in Rhode Island, drawing from and building upon existing databases including the state’s MBE/DBE program, the R.I. Department of Business Regulation and membership lists of local minority business support organizations.
  • Assessing the resources currently supporting Black-, Latino-, Asian-, Indigenous- and multi-racial-owned businesses and entrepreneurs in Rhode Island and providing a set of recommendations regarding organizational capacity, effectiveness, collaborations, gaps and opportunities for deeper investment, with a focus on the extent to which specific resources are being provided to minority businesses and entrepreneurs and businesses at different stages of growth.
  • Reviewing the national best practices of existing minority business and entrepreneurship strategies to assess effective models, critical partners, impacts on businesses and job creation, and opportunities for learning and replication in Rhode Island, with a focus on models that help Black-, Latino-, Asian-, Indigenous- and multi-racial-owned businesses and minority entrepreneurs achieve higher rates of business success and sustainability.
  • Engaging with and compiling feedback from existing Rhode Island-based minority businesses and business-supporting nonprofit organizations regarding needs, gaps in services and experience with available resources including common supply chains and workforce needs.

“Rhode Island, like many states, is failing on its promise to deliver a fair and just economic system to their diverse business populations. And of the root causes, systemic racism and untethered inequality comprise a significant share of the responsibility. While the study itself is not a silver bullet, it is a critical step in better understanding Rhode Island’s diverse business landscape while providing clear, concise, and actionable recommendations that the Legislature, the Governor’s office, the Chambers of Commerce, and the small business community at large should take notice of while pitching in to help execute. The recommendations made from this study should also be included in the planning for how Rhode Island will spend the $1.6B in federal relief money. Good minority business economic policy is simply good business economic policy, both large and small,” said Junior Jabbie, President & CEO of Banneker Supply Chain Solutions, Inc.

“The study is critical to allow us to capture the full landscape of minority-owned businesses in the state, outline work plans to close the gaps that exist, and take advantage of opportunities to support their growth and sustainability,” said Vanessa Toledo-Vickers of the Minority Business Accelerator Steering Committee.

A set of recommendations and next steps for developing and implementing new initiatives that draw upon best practices and fill identified gaps is expected to be completed by early fall.

“The plan calls for a robust business community engagement over the coming months that will ensure community voices will play a major role in the initiative. The goal is to engage new partners and existing organizations to expand outreach and support for minority businesses throughout Rhode Island,” said Steinberg.

Rhode Island Commerce, which initiated this partnership and effort, expects to review the information emerging from this effort as part of Governor McKee’s RI 2030 planning effort.

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The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $68 million and awarded a record $87 million in grants in 2020. Since its centennial five years ago, the Foundation has awarded more than $284 million in grants and has raised more than $328 million. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.