Kaine introduces legislation to establish HBCU business centers
Reaching America's Rural Minority Businesses Act would establish up to 10 centers
U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) and Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) announced Tuesday they have introduced the Reaching America’s Rural Minority Businesses Act, which would establish up to 10 minority business centers at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to serve rural and underserved communities.
The legislation would authorize the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) in the U.S. Department of Commerce to establish the HBCU business centers, which would offer education, training and technical assistance to rural minority businesses. The existing MDBA centers are currently concentrated in 18 states.
“MBDA centers have long been integral in supporting minority-owned businesses, but many rural businesses face challenges tapping into these federal resources. This difficulty is particularly devastating amid the ongoing economic crisis brought on by COVID-19,” Kaine said in a statement. “By combining the talent and expertise of HBCUs and MBDA centers, this bill will offer vital means for rural minority-owned businesses, helping them thrive and expand.”
The legislation would authorize $10 million per year to establish up to 10 rural business centers at HBCUs. Eligible institutions do not have to be rural, but must demonstrate how they would serve a rural or underserved minority population. Virginia is home to five HBCUs (Norfolk State University, Hampton University, Virginia State University, Virginia Union University and Virginia University of Lynchburg). In 2019, Norfolk State University opened its business center, which has supported local entrepreneurs through community forums, workshops and workspace availability.
“NSU’s Innovation Center is on the forefront of addressing these challenges by working to develop and support the next generation of minority entrepreneurs,” NSU President Javaune Adams-Gaston said in a statement. “The Reaching America’s Rural Minority Business Act is commonsense legislation that will provide America’s HBCUs with access to the critical resources needed to help minority owned businesses thrive in rural America.”
Centers could specifically help with implementing broadband, promoting U.S. manufacturing, closing supply chain gaps, promoting trade and exports and strengthening entrepreneurship, according to Kaine and Wicker’s announcement.
The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.)