2024 Minority Business Economic Forum Positions MBEs to Be Next, Now


Picture of Ying McGuire in a pink suit on stage against a Blue Screen with Be Next Now in white letters.

Last month (May 14-16), NMSDC brought together over 400 influential policymakers, academics, business, and community leaders in Seattle for its third annual Minority Business Economic Forum. With a theme of Be Next, Now, the Forum focused on building a strategic and comprehensive approach to advancing minority businesses through an interconnected ecosystem focused on existing and emerging industries like AI and clean energy. And this year’s event did not disappoint.

The Forum began on Tuesday, May 14 with an inspiring welcome reception at the Museum of Pop Culture where attendees socialized among several exciting pop culture-themed exhibits including an introspective on the band Nirvana. NMSDC CEO and President Ying McGuire shared welcoming remarks before introducing Forum co-chair and CEO of ARSC Industrial, Steve Ennis. Ennis shared a bit about the company’s history including ARSC’s origins as a successful Alaskan Native-owned and operated minority business enterprise (MBE). Finally, Ann Marr brought greetings from reception co-sponsor World Wide Technology and its founder and longtime NMSDC supporter David Steward. Later in the evening, many attendees were also treated to a night of conversation and networking at Zones Founder and CEO, and Forum co-chair, Firoz Lalji’s beautiful residence on Lake Washington.

The Forum got into full swing the next morning with inspiring opening remarks from McGuire, Lalji, and Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. McGuire also gave a preview of the 2023 Minority Businesses Economic Impact Report sharing that NMSDC-certified MBEs once again saw double-digit increases in growth, and, that if the trends of the past few years continued, NMSDC would achieve its March to $1 trillion by the end of 2030.

The rest of the morning was filled with insights from experts in today’s emerging industries including panels discussing what the future of clean energy holds for MBEs and an in-depth look at the future of economic equity from pioneers like long-time minority business leader Jim Lowry and corporate perspectives from Starbucks, Merck, and others. Additional highlights from the morning’s sessions included an economic forecast from J.P. Morgan Private Bank’s senior markets economist, an in-depth look at how the private sector is leveraging historic investments from the Inflation Reduction Act and Semiconductor (CHIPS) Act, and a fireside chat featuring KKR focused on how we can better provide capital access to MBEs.

In the afternoon, Forum participants chose from several networking opportunities including a Starbucks coffee tasting, a mini golf-inspired community service event, a CIO roundtable, and a first-of-its-kind capital connections convening aimed at sparking greater access to capital for certified MBEs. NMSDC will share more about this engaging session, and how it fits into the larger strategy of increasing access to capital for MBEs, in a future article.

Of course, it would not be the NMSDC Forum, without the Equity Honors. Taking place at the beautiful Fremont Studios, this year’s evening ceremony again honored corporate chief officers recognized by their peers as the true leaders at the vanguard of economic equity and minority business integration. Emceed by the engaging Mona Lee Mocke, not only did the evening honor this year’s winners and nominees but it also provided a night of music and networking to cap off the day’s activities. Check out the official announcement of this year’s winners to learn more.

The third and final day of the Forum began with opening remarks from NMSDC board chair Kala Gibson. The morning continued to build on the lessons from the day before with more engaging panels on AI, clean energy, and access to capital. In addition, attendees learned about additional topics including how infrastructure dollars have been spent with minority businesses, 5G and its power to end the digital divide, and building the next billion-dollar MBEs – a discussion led by ActOne Group CEO Janet Bryant Howroyd. These discussions included perspectives from leading private and public sector organizations like T-Mobile, Vizio, Microsoft, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, University of Washington, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and several others.

Also, as part of NMSDC’s continued commitment to support DEI and business diversity, it held a discussion led by Fortune leadership editor, Ruth Umoh, with experts that included representatives from the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Minority Business Development Agency. Their conversation focused on the current political and legal challenges facing these DEI programs and what they mean for the future of diverse businesses in the U.S.

Finally, NMSDC had one last surprise for attendees before they left Seattle – next year’s Forum will not only be co-chaired by Howroyd but will be taking place in the sunny city of Los Angeles! While this year certainly lived up to the promise of preparing MBEs for the future economy, now, we can’t wait to make an even greater impact at the 2025 Forum!

Passionate about MBE growth, but couldn’t make it to Seattle? Sign up for our Events and Programs communications on the NMSDC website to receive monthly highlights from this year’s event, including session recordings that will begin to be released in July. Also, join us at the 2024 Annual Conference & Exchange from October 20 – 23 in Atlanta to help continue the conversation and define new norms for the minority business community.

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