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Derek T. Dingle: Secretary Locke, thank you for granting us this interview.
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke: Oh, it’s my pleasure.
Dingle: We are here at the MEDWEEK conference and I’m wondering if you can outline Commerce’s agenda for minority business and how are you going to support minority business and what are your goals and objectives?
Locke: It’s our view that the economic recovery will not be successful unless minority businesses also share in that recovery and are part of the turnaround in the growth. It’s important for minority businesses to succeed if we want all of America to succeed. Minority businesses are such a large component of small to medium-sized businesses in America now. In just the last four years they’ve grown from just a couple of hundred thousand minority businesses to more than 4 million, employing millions and millions of Americans all across this country.
So, for instance, Small Business Administrator Karen Mills and I have been asked by the President and the Vice President to help lead all of our cabinet activities to ensure that with all the stimulus money that is going out, that minority firms are front and center in getting their fair share of those contracting opportunities. So in the next 90 days we’re going to have some 200 workshops and opportunities for minority businesses all across the country about the contracting opportunities. So we’re making it a high priority to ensure that minority businesses receive their fair share of dollars and are able to be part of this economic recovery.
Dingle: So is that to answer some of the frustrations that we’ve heard, in terms of minority firms being able to access recovery contracts, and in terms of that, what are the specific targets that you have for minority businesses, in terms of gaining those contracts?
Locke: Well, we don’t really have firm targets. We’re going to be using the power of the administration to inform the states, notify the states that we really want minority firms to be part of contracts and subcontracts that are let, whether it’s building a bridge, repairing roads, constructing dormitories and college laboratories or modeling schools. Within the federal agencies we will be really working with all the cabinet secretaries with the money that they administer, even if it is unique to that federal agency to make sure that minority businesses are considered and encouraged and given the opportunity to compete and hopefully win some of the contracts.