Economic outlook topic of conference

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For more than a decade the MWDBE Governmental Committee has been creating effective methods that strengthen economic opportunities for minority, women and disadvantaged business enterprises. Their recent conference titled, “Business Survival 2012 and Beyond,” focused on the emerging business opportunities within the region, contracting opportunities in the Housing Authority City of Pittsburgh and the economic outlook of the United States.

ReadyForBusiness
READY FOR BUSINESS—Cutting the ribbon to kick off the 11th Annual Conference for MWDBEs is event co-chair Kim Evans; Section 3/MWDBE Coordinator, Allegheny County Housing Authority and chairman James T. Johnson; Assistant Manager, Business Development Allegheny County Economic Development. (Photos by Diane I. Daniels)

One week prior to Forbes Magazine identifying Pittsburgh as one of ten “American Comeback Cities,” Bill Flanagan, executive vice-president corporate relations for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development painted Pittsburgh and the region with a positive brush.

To a crowd of more than two hundred he said, “We have built on our strengths. New industries have replaced what was once a major industrial region and created opportunities in health care and life sciences, advanced manufacturing, information and communication technology, financial and business services and energy.”

Flanagan, corporate relations expert for the areas’ regional development organizations, historically pointed out what once was an area noted for coal mining, oil refineries, natural gas drilling, mine safety research and steel manufacturing, now has a Convention Center that has been awarded with a Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

“This economy has changed a lot throughout the past 30 years,” he said.

With the presence of some world headquarters, major research firms, banks, law firms and major tech firms like Google, Flanagan labeled the region as “fast growing.” He indicated that there are thousands of jobs in a variety of fields.

“Jobs in energy will be a great opportunity for the next 25 to 30 years,” he said, citing Marcellus Shale as a major player. He also predicted a need for skilled workers in industries such as nuclear and solar energy. He said southwestern Pennsylvania has become the new center for innovation, predicting the results to begin taking effect within the next five to ten years. In the next three to five years, he forecasts a population growth that will create new opportunities in the service area.

“Workforce development is a key issue in this region right now,” he said.

Organizations like the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, The Pennsylvania Economy League of Southwestern Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance and the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce are connected to assure that the region is preparing and recruiting a skilled workforce for the metropolitan region.

“We are excited about the opportunities in the region,” he said.

Fulton Meachem Jr., the executive director of the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh is committed to the mission of his organization to be the flagship agency providing property management and real estate development services in the City of Pittsburgh, thereby creating environments that improve the quality of life for HACP customers.

“To make this happen we need competent contractors,” he calculates. “At the HACP we have three responsibilities, property management, real estate development and human services.”

As a result he says there are a lot of business opportunities.

Explaining the procurement process, he said the agency is committed to their MWDBE goals. For the last six years he estimated that $1.3 million of their contracts went to MBEs and $34 million to WBEs.

When responding to request for proposals or request for quotations, he suggests that candidates read the document thoroughly, fill out all information, attend the pre bid submission conference and to always provide a fresh proposal.

The executive director of the HACP since 2006, Meachem prides himself in providing renewed energy and leadership in all areas of the agency’s’ activities including development, operational efficiency, modernization and creation of accessible units and resident services.

The state of the economy is a concern of employers, employees and small business owners, but according to economist, Mekael Teshome, there is cause to think positive. According to the Labor Department, U.S. employment showed sturdy growth for the third straight month in February which demonstrates that the recovery continues to grow at a modest pace. To Teshome that indicates that the economy is getting better.

“Consumer confidence is stronger,” he said predicting that 2012 will have steady but moderate growth with unemployment falling to eight percent.

Teshome, assistant vice president and economist for PNC Financial Services Group does consider raising oil prices and the European debt problem as a down side to the economy. With his job being to focus on state and metropolitan economies within PNC’s core economic footprint as well as industry analysis, he as well as Flanagan, views the well-being of southwestern Pennsylvania to be on an upswing in the coming years.

Local business owners, Charles and Elisa Sanders for the last 10 years have been experiencing the ups and downs of the economy. The 2012 MWDBE Governmental Committee Hall of Fame Inductees and owners of Urban Lending Solutions, formerly Urban Settlement Services since 1999, has grown their company in the last three years more than 1600 percent, making it the most prestigious, minority-owned business in the financial industry. ULS is listed as number one in revenue growth in Black Enterprise Magazine’s top 100 list with an overall ranking of number 28. The business was ranked number 205 in Inc. 500’s list of fastest growing companies and number 15 in Inc. 500 Magazine’s financial services industry. Inc. 500 Magazine also has named Charles Sanders, the CEO of ULS as one of the top 10 Black entrepreneurs in the nation.

Another major component of the conference for MWDBEs is the trade fair. With government purchasing agents as well as a variety of other agencies on hand, participants were provided the opportunity to market their business, to learn what bidding opportunities are available and how to do business with them.

The mission of the 22 member MWDBE Governmental Committee is to provide assistance enabling contractors and businesses to secure contracts in the goods and service, construction and professional services markets leading to profitability and growth for the businesses.

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