This week, amid much bureaucratic ballyhooing and interdepartmental one-upsmanship, the Reagan administration rolls out the red carpet for minority businesses.
Among the two dozen or so businesses that will be honored during Minority Enterprise Development Week (Med Week) in separate programs by the Commerce Department and the Small Business Administration are five small, minority-owned firms from Washington, Maryland and Virginia.
Not to be outdone, the Energy Department also has gotten into the act, naming Joshua I. Smith, the president of Bethesda-based Maxima Corp., a 7-year-old information technology services firm, as its first "Minority Entrepreneur of the Year."
In addition to the awards presentation on Wednesday, the ceremonies will include speeches by Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige, Minority Business Development Agency director James H. Richardson Gonzales, and Small Business Administrator James C. Sanders, seminars on a slew of business topics by governmental and industry officials, and a trade fair -- a meeting place for government contractors and procurement personnel that one SBA spokesman said should prove to be the most useful event for minority contractors.
This year, the Small Business Administration named a "Minority Firm of the Year" from the District, Maryland and Virginia and nominated them to compete against other firms for the national minority business award:
*Creative Associates Inc., of Washington, is the winner for the District and also was chosen as the overall winner for the region including Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virignia and West Virginia.
*Creative Associates, founded in 1977 by four women -- one Hispanic, one black, one Chinese-American and one white -- who had backgrounds in education and human resources, provides consulting expertise in Third World countries and the U.S. in three major areas: education and social sciences, computer systems and private enterprise development. From their first contract with the Agency for International Development (AID) to aid poor women in Bolivia, Creative Associates has grown into a company that now employs 100 people, has five offices overseas and annual revenue of about $7 million. Among the firm's clients are AID, the Peace Corps and the departments of Defense, Transportation, Agriculture and Health and Human Services.
*Am Machine Co., of East Baltimore, was named Maryland "Minority Firm of the Year." Am Machine, established in 1969 as a part-time business by its president, Andrew McNeill, is a general and precision machine-part tooling shop. Now, Am Machine employs 15 people in the economically depressed area of East Baltimore and does a little more than $1 million in business a year for government and private industry clients, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Westinghouse Electric Corp., McNeill said.
*Napit Contracting Inc., of Hampton, was named Virginia "Minority Firm of the Year." Napit began five years ago in the sandblasting business. Charles Lee Taylor, the firm's founder and president, said he was collecting unemployment compensation at the time and had to borrow money from friends and relatives to finance the business. Today, Napit is a general contractor with about $6 million in annual revenue doing business with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Navy and the General Services Administration, among others. Taylor's two sons and a daughter work at the firm.
The Commerce Department's Minority Business Development Agency conducts a similar, although more complex, awards program, nominating firms from each of its regions for awards in different industry categories. This year, two local firms and one association will be honored:
*International Wholesalers Corp., of the District, has been named the national "Minority Wholesale and Retail Firm of the Year." Gilberto Gonzalez, a Cuban immigrant who is the company's president and founder, opened his first store, a small grocery shop in Baltimore, in 1964. Gonzalez and his family now own a chain of five stores in the District, Maryland and Virginia and distribute mostly imported foods to more than 250 stores, including nine Spanish grocery stores in the District. The company has estimated annual sales of $11 million.
*Automated Sciences Group Inc., of Silver Spring, was named the regional winner of the award for "Minority Service Industry Firm of the Year." Conrad Hipkins, now chairman of the board, founded ASG in 1974 as a one-person operation with a single contract. Today, ASG is a professional consulting firm specializing in computer programming and hardware, and management services. With 400 employes in nine branch offices across the country, the company currently has annual sales of about $23 million. Clarence H. Braddock Jr. joined the firm in 1979 as president and chief executive officer.
*Ibero-American Chamber of Commerce, in Washington, was named "Minority Trade Association of the Year." The chamber was founded by some of Washington's Hispanic business leaders in 1976 and now includes in its membership the spectrum of Hispanic-owned businesses, from major companies to family-owned firms. The chamber has helped to establish more than 100 Washington-area Hispanic firms, the Commerce Department said.
From interviews with the local minority business people being honored this week, one point about the relationship between minority-owned businesses and the federal government is clear. While many minority firms never would have gotten off the ground without the federal program of setting aside government contracts for those firms, the successful ones would like to escape the stigma attached to being a minority firm, rely less on government contracts and break into commercial markets.
Under Section 8(a) of the Small Business Administration Act of 1953, the SBA acts as a prime contractor -- certifying the capability of minority-owned firms and awarding them federal contracts.
"The 8(a) program is a tremendous mechanism for start-up companies," said M. Charito Kruvant of Creative Associates, which participates in the program. "It has been a big help. Without it, we'd be nowhere," echoes Taylor of Napit Contracting. "But we want to graduate from the 8(a) program and be successful in the commercial markets."
If Taylor's eagerness is any sign, there will be deals between the guests of honor and officials in government and industry.
For a full schedule of the week's programs, contact: Margaret Matta, of the Commerce Department's Minority Business Development Agency, at (202) 377-8280; or the D.C. Minority Business Opportunity Commission at (202) 727-3818. Analytic Decisions Inc., a Rosslyn-based research firm, has been acquired by Muncie, Ind.-based Ball Corp., one of the nation's largest makers of glass, metal and plastic containers. The acquisition, for an undisclosed price, was made through an exchange of Ball Corp. stock, which is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
Gary Glaser, who will remain president of the 7-year-old ADI, said the merger will make "a good mix in hardware and analytic capability." Ball Corp. has revenue of $1 billion a year, while ADI sold $3.5 million in computer software and other technology services last year, primarily to the federal government.
Glaser said ADI will be a subsidiary of Ball's technology products group in Westminster, Colo.