With some members saying the request aligned with their mission, Fredericksburg’s Economic Development Authority recently voted to give $20,000 to help fund an upcoming Black Business Expo.
The money will offset the cost of renting the Fredericksburg Expo Center, where the Virginia Black Business Directory and supporting organizations are scheduled to hold the Second Annual Virginia Black Business Expo Sept. 11–12.
Vernon Green, on the board of directors of the Black Business Directory, appeared at the monthly city EDA meeting to ask for funding. He said the nonprofit exists largely to “connect black owned businesses with consumers through community collaboration and networking.”
Green said the needs of minority business owners are not being met.
To that end, he said that the Virginia Black Business Directory and those who support it get the word out about black-owned businesses and provide the opportunity “for those businesses to be seen, to build their businesses and to employ more people in the region.”
“We’ve been embraced in some circles, admonished in others,” said Green, who appeared at the meeting with Directory founders Ernisha Hall and Tracey Hall. “When we highlight black-owned businesses, it’s not to say that they’re better or more deserving than others. Instead, it’s to say that there are businesses not being taken care of, and to bring attention to them and correct that problem.”
When some EDA members questioned funding the group’s request, member Mitzi Brown made it clear she would support it.
“I can’t imagine a request for help that’s more of a bullseye on why our organization exists,” she said, “We have certainly funded things in the past that are much less connected to workforce development.”
Eventually, the request to send $20,000 to the event was unanimously supported, with the caveat that the EDA would get space for a booth at the event and be mentioned in the events programming.
As for whether the government body would become an annual sponsor, EDA members said that’s a discussion for another day. Several members said a recent appearance by the EDA at the Peace in the Paint event made it clear that it needs to do more outreach to minority businesses.
One member noted that participants there at one point looked at EDA representatives like “flamingos in the middle of the Gobi desert,” providing the lesson that “we need to show up more.”
In other business, the city EDA heard from Michael McDermott, president and CEO of Mary Washington Healthcare, who shared a few tidbits that drew the EDA’s interest.
One was the fact that the healthcare organization didn’t get reimbursed for the vaccine clinic it offered, at the cost of $400,000 a month, something he called “an investment of a couple millions dollars in the Fredericksburg community.”
“We had to pay nurses for their time there and we were able to get more than 200,000 people vaccinated over that time.” He said MWH “was happy to do it. I know the community was appreciative, as we’ve heard an outpouring of thanks.”
He also noted that in some two years from now, Mary Washington Hospital will likely have its first residency instructional programs—in family practice and internal medicine—with the hope that residencies in general surgery, radiology and orthopedics will soon follow.
Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415