Mason event provides support to small and minority-owned businesses

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George Mason University will host the Small and Minority-Owned Business Roundtable on Jan. 24 to inform regional and state businesses owners and operators how they can compete for contracts related to an infrastructure and jobs act recently passed by Congress.

The free virtual event, set for 1 to 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 24, has attracted more than 400 registrants from the small and minority-owned business community. Virginia Congressmen Gerry Connolly and Bobby Scott will take part in the roundtable, as will federal and state transportation experts, including Sandra Norman, division administrator for civil rights at the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The event will be carried live on GMU-TV.

“One of our most important roles as the largest and most diverse public research university in the commonwealth is to expand opportunity and economic development in our state and region,” said Mason President Gregory Washington. “This event highlights our strengths in those areas.”

Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in November to rebuild U.S. roads, bridges and rails; provide greater access to clean drinking water and high-speed internet; and to address environmental challenges. The act also is expected to create millions of jobs over the coming decade. Regional and state businesses can benefit from that economic growth if they have all the necessary information.

“The roundtable will enable the business community to learn more about the types of services needed, timeline and prioritization of projects, and how they can best position themselves for contracting/subcontracting opportunities,” said Dietra Trent, a Mason special advisor who is organizing the event.

The roundtable is the latest Mason initiative to support small and minority-owned businesses. Mason Enterprise operates a suite of entrepreneurial programs including 27 Virginia Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) around the commonwealth and the Virginia Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). Both provide advising and training for small business owners. Last year these programs advised and supported 10,000 small businesses with 27,000 hours of one-on-one counseling across the commonwealth. In addition, about 18,000 attendees took part in 863 programs sponsored by SBDC or PTAC.

Mason also serves budding entrepreneurs with the Mason Virginia Promise, a guaranteed pathway to a bachelor’s degree or help starting a business for every Virginian who wants one.

“Mason is here to support small businesses no matter their needs,” said Jody Keenan, Virginia SBDC state director. “Whether it’s providing emergency guidance and resources during the pandemic, formulating growth strategies, or supporting economic development organizations, Mason is a valuable resource for the small and minority-owned business community.”