WASHINGTON -- Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, today introduced the Minority Entrepreneurship and Innovation Pilot Program to encourage small business growth among minority populations nationwide.

“Growing existing minority firms and promoting entrepreneurship among minority college students will have a significant impact on the employment rate, income levels and wealth creation of minorities throughout the nation,” said Kerry.

In 2005, African Americans accounted for 12.3 percent of the U.S. population and only four percent of all U.S. businesses. Hispanics Americans represented 12.5 percent of the population and approximately six percent of businesses. Native Americans comprised one percent of the population and less than one percent of all businesses. Further, as evidenced in the Urban League’s 2005 State of Black America report, which described a growing “wealth gap” for minorities, there is a demonstrated need for an expansion of entrepreneurial education and outreach within these communities.

“There is a clear correlation between the growth of minority-owned firms and the economic vitality of minority communities,” Kerry said. “This program will help to target students in highly-skilled fields such as engineering, manufacturing, science and technology, and guide them towards entrepreneurship as a career option.”

The legislation creates a $24 million grant program for the development of entrepreneurial curricula at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges, and Hispanic-Serving Institutions. The bill will also place a business counseling center on the campus of the institutions receiving the grants to help local businesses.

“Promoting entrepreneurial education to undergraduate students at these colleges and universities has the potential to expand minority business ownership in technology, financial services, legal services and other areas in which the overall development of minority firms has been slow,” said Kerry.

To read the full text of Kerry’s floor statement, click here.