From retail and restaurants to tech and media, contractors to coworking spaces, large, small, and everything in between, a diverse array of businesses call Alexandria home. In our blog series, Growing in Alexandria, we sit down to talk with businesses around the City to learn more about who they are, what they do, and why they love it here. Have an idea for a business in Alexandria to talk to? Email us!
Our business development team sat down with Tommy Marks, Director of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) – Federal Procurement Center. We had a great talk about the future of minority-owned businesses in our nation, filled with great advice and tips from the expert himself.
AEDP: To get us started, please tell us a little about the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) – Federal Procurement Center (FPC).
Tommy: The MBDA Federal Procurement Center is one of thirty-seven business centers located across the nation. It is federally funded by the Department of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). The Center’s mission is to work with minority-owned companies that are interested in doing business in the federal space. The FPC is the only one of its kind, and is solely dedicated to doing business in the federal space.
AEDP: Interesting! So, what is the next big project or goal that you and your team are working on?
Tommy: What we attempt to do, on a monthly basis, is to bring information to the Minority business community at-large. We focus on minority-owned business enterprises (MBE’s), and we try to bring them information on what is happening in the federal sector. We do that through a series of webinars and we often collaborate with our operator which is the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council (CRMSDC), to co-host a variety of webinars and events.
AEDP: Nice! What is the best piece of professional advice that you’ve received that you would like to share?
Tommy: The best advice that I’ve ever received came from my grandmother, who raised me since I was twelve years old. She said, “opportunity will always come knocking and you must be ready when it does.” Which means we always have to stay on top of our game and we must stay prepared for the opportunities that will come our way. Once you get your foot in the door and show that you can perform, that alone will open up a whole bunch of new opportunities.
AEDP: Ok, so what would you say to any businesses that are struggling, especially with the current pandemic situation?
Tommy: I recently heard a statistic that said about 40% of MBE’s have gone out of business due to COVID-19. Many MBE’s are either 1-2 person staffed, or very small staffs compared to larger firms. Most MBE’s are working from contract to contract. What I would say to them is that you must be prepared and be willing and ready to pivot. The businesses that are surviving right now are the ones that are doing just that. I would also add that, especially in the federal space, the trend is to team. The number of individual federal contracts has reduced so teaming with a like company will help MBE’s bring capacity to the table in order to win contracts.
AEDP: To finish up, can you share your favorite thing about Alexandria, and why you decided to locate here?
Tommy: Alexandria is a great place! We moved to Alexandria a year ago. We were previously co-located with our operator in Silver Spring, MD. The decision to move to Alexandria was a strategic one because we wanted to have a presence throughout the DMV area. Our Center works with businesses from all over the country and our Alexandria office is conveniently located near to the National Airport and Amtrak station. It makes it super easy for folks who are flying into the DMV area, to stop by and meet with us. We also love being walking distance to the King Street Metro station.
To learn more about the Minority Business Development Agency – Federal Procurement Center, visit their website or their office at 1800 Diagonal Road, Suite 600.