More than 1.5 million businesses in the United States are owned by Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. These firms account for $508.6 billion in spending power nationwide and have resulted in the creation of more than 2.8 million jobs. A vast majority of these companies are small and are fueled almost exclusively on creatively, ingenuity, business innovation and an unparalleled level of entrepreneurial spirit that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
They include a robotics company designed to entice young people to consider careers in science, technology and engineering; a brick and mortar Boba tea shop that will introduce new flavors and customer enhancements to widen its appeal; a fashion design company that draws inspiration from the cultural diversity of America; and, a shoe designer who incorporates recycled and repurposed paper to create an environmentally friendly consumer product.
On May 5, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) teamed up with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) by holding a roundtable discussion to address some of the key issues facing business owners, entrepreneurs and corporate leaders in the greater Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.
The dialogue between the AAPI business leaders and federal leaders was direct, open, and honest, and included conversations that focused on including small business leaders on international trade missions; having ACE and regional business associations and chambers serve as direct resources to all federal agencies; encouraging the SBA and MBDA to identify, recruit and hire more AAPIs to work within existing Small Business Development Centers and MBDA Business Centers; offering more in-culture and in-language services for the growing number of small businesses established by immigrants from Asia and other parts of the world; and, by working with federal agencies to collect and share disaggregated data pertaining to AAPIs that will ensure that will allow federal agencies and the AAPI business community to develop strategies and tactical plans to address the needs, interests and aspirations of the AAPI business community.
On May 29, WHIAAPI, along with MBDA and the Export-Import Bank, co-hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum Opening Symposium which convened over one hundred business leaders interested in doing business in Asia. It was an excellent opportunity for both senior level government officials and business leaders to learn and discuss ways to better utilize resources in the federal government and the Asia-Pacific region.
A highlight of the event was the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between WHIAAPI and MBDA. The MOU will solidify a partnership between the two agencies and marks the beginning of future programs such as a possible business development program that would provide a range of federal business development services for AAPI businesses to be more successful overseas.
The roundtable discussion and symposium were very successful because all parties were engaged, supportive and focused on finding equitable solutions. Representatives agreed that they must continue to look to each other to find ways to improve access to capital, stimulate economic development and growth, advance U.S. exports, facilitate federal contracting opportunities for small businesses, forge stronger public-private partnerships, and to collect, source and analyze data to ensure that all businesses and communities have the same opportunities to strive for business success.
Bill Imada is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.