ENVIRO AgScience Inc. sits on a sprawling 12-acre campus in Columbia, S.C. Founded by Louis B. Lynn in 1985 as a commercial lawn-care company, ENVIRO today offers prime contracting, general construction and construction management, in addition to large-scale commercial landscaping.
“I never imagined when I started my business almost thirty years ago that it would grow like it has,” says Lynn. He attributes much of that growth to the help he received from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), the federal government’s point agency on support for the nation’s minority, and, more recently, diaspora-owned businesses. “With the help of MBDA, I’ve been able to grow from a local business with two employees to a nationwide contractor and construction enterprise that employs more than ninety-five people,” Lynn says.
MBDA defines “diaspora” as “any group that has been dispersed outside its traditional homeland.”
Although ENVIRO is a client of the Columbia MBDA Business Center, Lynn recently took advantage of MBDA’s integrated network by working with the Atlanta MBDA Business Center to expand into Georgia markets. He is now preparing for contracting opportunities with the California High-Speed Rail project.
In fiscal year 2012, which ended Sept. 30, 2012, MBDA helped 1,438 Black-owned businesses to access $1.8 billion in contracts and capital, according to the agency’s Annual Performance Report: Fiscal Year 2012. During the first term of the Obama administration, MBDA assisted 8,656 African American-owned businesses in obtaining $7.4 billion in contracts and capital, a 178 percent increase over the previous four-year period.
There are 1.9 million African American-owned firms in the U.S., 6 percent of which have paid employees — on average nine per firm — and more than $911,000 in annual receipts. They include billion-dollar firms, such as systems integration provider World Wide Technology Inc. and Act-1 Group Co., a technical and professional services firm. Black-owned businesses collectively generate $136 billion in annual economic output and have created 910,000 jobs. Those that export report an average $8.1 million in annual receipts, compared to the $64,000 averaged by their nonexporting counterparts. Exports represent about 5.1 percent of total revenue for Black-owned exporting companies, compared to 3.2 percent for all U.S. firms that export.
Overall, MBDA helped to create and retain 16,730 jobs in FY 2012, the highest level in the agency’s 44-year history, by helping MBDA clients to obtain more than $3.6 billion in contracts and capital awards, the performance report says. The year anchors an Obama administration total of $14.6 billion in contracts and capital for MBDA clients, making this the highest four-year performance in the history of the agency. It also represents a 108 percent increase in contracts and capital awarded to MBDA clients over the previous four-year period.
MBDA’s record-setting performance follows a restructuring that began in 2009, the first year of the Obama administration. The agency centralized its operations in Washington, D.C., adopted an operating model that focused on MBDA Business Centers around the nation, and increased its global support capability by executing a new alliance with the Export-Import Bank of the United States. It launched MBDA Business Centers in Anchorage, Alaska; Fresno, Calif.; Santa Fe, N.M.; Bismarck, N.D.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Tulsa, Okla.
In Atlanta, the local MBDA Business Center was transformed into the Advanced Manufacturing and Health-care Technology Specialty Business Center, leveraging the capabilities of its host location at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The transformation is part of the MBDA’s effort to include specialty centers in the Business Center network to provide industry-specific support services.
“Fiscal year 2012 was a year of tremendous change for MBDA, allowing the agency to lay a foundation for greater access to global markets and greater economic opportunities for all Americans,” says MBDA National Director David Hinson.