(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship Chair Ben Cardin (D-Md.) hosted a discussion following President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union Address with his virtual guests Spencer Jones, owner of Chick & Ruth’s Delly in Annapolis, Omar Muhammad, Director of the Entrepreneurial Development Assistance Center (EDAC) at Morgan State University, and Lisa Smith, Executive Director of Bowie Business Innovation Center (Bowie BIC).
“The theme of the speech on the economy was right on target…” Cardin said about the address. “I was pleased that he said he wants to help small businesses, and he wants to go after those who committed fraud. It’s outrageous what some people did, and the Trump Administration did absolutely nothing at all on transparency or enforcement of those violating the rules. We were yelling and screaming—Democrats and Republicans—about the lack of transparency.” View Cardin video here.
Top Row: Lisa Smith; Senator Cardin
Bottom Row: Spencer Jones; Omar Muhammad
As the Senate Democrats’ lead negotiator of Congress’ small business relief efforts during the pandemic, Senator Cardin has championed equity-focused policies that successfully directed relief to the most vulnerable small businesses according to recent studies; and his guests reflect his commitment to increasing federal capacity to support underserved entrepreneurs.
Spencer Jones’ restaurant, Chick & Ruth’s Delly, is an institution on Annapolis’ Main Street. The restaurant was able to keep its doors open during the pandemic with support through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which was created by President Biden’s historic American Rescue Plan.
Mr. Jones was pleased to hear President Biden’s commitment to reducing inflation. He said, “Hearing that tackling inflation is going to be a top priority was very important. I was happy to hear that.” View Jones video here.
As Director of EDAC at Morgan State University, Omar Muhammad oversees the university’s entrepreneurial development initiatives. The initiatives include the Baltimore Women’s Business Center, which is funded through a grant from the Small Business Administration, and the Returning Citizens Inspired to Develop Entrepreneurial Ventures (R.I.D.E.) Center, which is funded through a grant from the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA).
Mr. Muhammad touted the importance of the technical assistance provided to small businesses by the Community Navigators Pilot Program created by the American Rescue Plan, saying, “Giving people money without having that technical assistance is just money going out the door. You have to include the technical assistance with it.” View Muhammad video here.
As Executive Director of the Bowie BIC, Lisa Smith manages the only business accelerator operated by an HBCU in Maryland. The center provides entrepreneurs in the technology and government contracting industries with access to capital, mentorship, training, and collaborative workspace to help them launch successful businesses. Cardin’s UPLIFT Act, which is included in President Biden’s Build Back Better Budget, seeks to replicate the success of the Bowie BIC by providing grants to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to create or expand similar programs.
Ms. Smith highlighted a new access to capital initiative launching soon as an example of the importance of programs like Bowie BIC. She said, “We’re launching something called, ‘The Scale Up Accelerator’ all around bankability for underserved entrepreneurs. We started promoting it last Tuesday, and we already have more than 40 people who have signed up to be part of this four-week intensive program.” View Smith video here.