Del. Darryl Barnes, who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, speaks April 5 during the 90-day legislative session in Annapolis. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
Del. Darryl Barnes, who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, speaks April 5 during the 90-day legislative session in Annapolis. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

One of the major initiatives for Del. Darryl Barnes deals with improving the state of Maryland’s business climate, especially when it comes to minority- and women-owned businesses.

Barnes said one major problem remains that the state isn’t meeting its 29% goal for Minority Business Enterprise firms to receive contracts on various projects.

Barnes, who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, said Black-owned businesses receive about 14% of the 29%.

“By the time you drill down from that 29% percent down to 14%, Black-owned companies are only getting 3% to 5%,” said Barnes (D-District 25) of Upper Marlboro. “The state of Maryland procures a billion dollars annually. Where is the money going? It sure isn’t going to Black-owned business.”

With the July 19 primary election coming and a multi-billion budget surplus available, more than 600 people registered for the Black Caucus’ annual Minority Business Enterprise Night in Annapolis. This year’s event on Thursday, April 28 marks the highest number of people scheduled to attend.

Besides networking with other business owners and representatives from state agencies, a panel will be held to discuss procurement opportunities and access to capital. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and House Speaker Adrienne Jones are labeled as special guests.

Attendees will also learn about bills passed from this year’s 90-day legislative session.

One bill state lawmakers approved will require the governor’s Office of Small, Minority and Women Business Affairs to conduct a study on the state’s alcoholic beverage industry.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Obie Patterson (D-District 26) of Fort Washington, who announced his plans to not seek reelection and will retire, enforces the office to assess the industry that includes:

  • Historic and current levels of minority participation in manufacturing, distributing and retail sales.
  • Market activity in retail sales, especially in areas with high concentrations of minority populations.
  • Consider and develop legal tools to increase minority participation.

Gerald Boyd, president and CEO of Legacy Partners Distribution with a warehouse in Laurel, represents the state’s only Black liquor distributor with currently eight employees.

Boyd, who’s in his eighth year operating the business and plans to attend Thursday’s MBE event, supports the alcohol study to determine whether racial or any other disparity exists in the state.

“[The state regulations] have no teeth. What you need are mandates,” he said. “African Americans are major consumers and purchasers of alcoholic beverages, but we don’t have a seat at the wealth equity table. None.”

Harris Floyd, CEO of EasyAV in Largo that’s been in business since 2011, will attend the MBE Night. Her husband, Shelvin Floyd who will also attend, is a certified technology specialist and founder of the company that conducts audio/visual and information technology integration projects.

“This is the one time when you can come to an event that is designed to inform, educate and get you involved in the policies and the politics that impact your profit,” Harris Floyd said. “There’s no way you should be absent from that.”

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