Last week, U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., introduced the “Reaching America’s Rural Minority Businesses Act of 2020” (S.4873), which would authorize the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) within the Department of Commerce to establish up to 10 business centers at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to serve rural and underserved communities. MBDA’s existing Minority Business Centers are concentrated in select urban areas in 18 states, leaving vast swaths of the country without easy access to MBDA’s services.

Wicker’s legislation was praised by all of Mississippi’s HBCUs, including Alcorn State University, Coahoma Community College, Hinds Community College-Utica, Jackson State University, Mississippi Valley State University, Rust College, and Tougaloo College.

Here is what they are saying:

Alcorn State University – “As America’s most-rural HBCU land-grant, Alcorn State University and our surrounding communities would greatly benefit from the establishment of a business development center focused on helping rural, minority entrepreneurs. Recent reports indicate small businesses in rural communities of color experience unequal access to federal assistance, yet thrive when provided more tailored support, education and outreach. Alcorn fully supports the distinct opportunity this legislation presents to address longstanding challenges for rural, minority-owned businesses. The Reaching America’s Rural Minority Businesses Act firmly aligns with our robust mission to successfully prepare a well-rounded community of high character leaders for the the 21st century global marketplace,” said Dr. Felecia M. Nave, President.

Coahoma Community College – “Coahoma Community College is excited to learn of your efforts to create rural Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) business centers so that Mississippi small businesses can position themselves to receive assistance that has been previously limited to businesses located in nonrural areas. As an HBCU in the Mississippi Delta, we anticipate opportunities that will come from the Reaching America’s Rural Minority Businesses Act to serve small businesses in our surrounding communities. We fully support the efforts of Senator Roger Wicker,” said Dr. Valmadge T. Towner, President.

Hinds Community College – Utica – “Hinds Community College is extremely excited about the Reaching America’s Rural Minority Businesses Act, specifically the potential allocation of resources through the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) to support economic development of minority businesses in rural America.  The Utica Campus of Hinds CC, a dedicated HBCU, would certainly realize a deeper impact on community and workforce development through the establishment of a dedicated business center to work directly with minority students and community members, especially small business owners.  These minority entrepreneurs and leaders in rural Mississippi, particularly within the African-American community, are poised to create opportunities for better lives for our citizens – all that is needed is the training and technical support that the community college can deliver,” said Dr. Stephen Vacik, President.

Jackson State University – “This Act means that Jackson State University will now have the resources to make systemic changes for our local communities. The creation of Rural MBDA Minority Business Centers and the funding provided allow us to help rural minority businesses by improving pathways for global competition, uncovering new streams of commerce that are forthcoming in the import/export business, both interstate and globally…This is also a significant opportunity for our institutions to continue producing tomorrow’s business leaders who are critical thinkers that address societal issues effectively,” said Thomas K. Hudson, J.D., Acting President.

Mississippi Valley State University – “We are pleased with the added resources and incentives that the Reaching America’s Rural Minority Businesses Act will bring to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) like Mississippi Valley State University. This legislation is designed to utilize HBCUs as a vehicle to help foster entrepreneurship among rural minority populations and will position us to better serve our respective communities,” said Dr. Jerryl Briggs, President.

Rust College – “As the President of an HBCU located in a rural community, I am aware first-hand of the challenges that exist for minority owned businesses in this area. These challenges, and the lack of resources for overcoming these challenges have become more apparent as many businesses fight to survive during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Establishing rural-focused business centers at HBCUs, through partnership with the MBDA, would provide opportunities for our institutions to serve as hubs for collaboration while sharing MBDA resources, our expertise, connections, and innovative ideas with the surrounding community,” said Dr. Ivy R. Taylor, President.

Tougaloo College – “We are excited about the potential resources and training provided by Reaching America’s Rural Minority Businesses Act (RARMBA). Through this initiative, Tougaloo College and other HBCUs will have the ability to prepare its graduates and local communities to be productive in their time and lead the change for a better world. Partnerships between the Minority Business Development Agency and HBCUs would facilitate long-term economic growth in rural communities across Mississippi,” said Dr. Carmen J. Walters, President.

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Release from Senator Roger Wicker.