It has been more than a year since a Lanham-based clearinghouse was given the task of helping minority-owned businesses in the Washington area win government contracts. The results have exceeded expectations, said Necola Y. Shaw, executive director of the National Capital Minority Business Opportunity Committee.

Local minority-owned firms aided by the committee won about $70 million in contract work in the past year, and the group helped companies secure about $27 million in financing over that same period, Shaw said.

The committee was started in February 2003 by the Prince George's County Economic Development Corp. It works with three other local minority business groups -- the Greater Washington Ibero American Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Business Foundation and the Minority Business Coalition -- to match minority businesses with contract opportunities. The committee won its funding from the Minority Business Development Agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce; more than 80 organizations competed for the grant.

Q.C. Jones, president of TMI Solutions Inc., a Fort Washington information technology company, is glad that Shaw's group won the grant. He was introduced to more-established Maricom Systems Inc., a Baltimore custom computer programming services company, at a seminar sponsored by the committee. Jones met Frank Valdivieso, Maricom vice president of business development, and the two discussed how both could pursue contracts together.

Jones credited Shaw as being instrumental in "opening doors that otherwise may not have opened." Jones said he often uses the committee's offices to gather resources and information as well as to conduct business meetings.

Valdivieso said Shaw reviewed the two companies' business presentations, referred him to contacts in the federal government and kept him abreast of information that could benefit the company.

"She's a real strong advocate for small business," he said.

TMI Solutions now works on one of Maricom's contracts at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in Baltimore to develop computer system applications. The companies are working together to win a contract with Prince George's County.

The committee has several performance goals it must achieve to continue to receive funding under its $600,000, three-year federal grant. Shaw was proud that the group met or exceeded its targets in seven out of eight areas.

For example, the committee identified $607 million in contracts that it believed its clients could compete for, more than its goal of $458 million. It worked with about 400 minority businesses, helping them find contracting opportunities and explore financing options. It also sponsored workshops and seminars like the one Jones attended.

The one target not reached was the dollar amount of contracts awarded to businesses. The goal was $91.7 million; the actual amount was around $70 million.

The committee works with financial partners, such as Prince George's Financial Services Corp., the U.S. Small Business Administration, Industrial Bank and BB&T Corp. to ease the process of getting a loan for a minority business.

"For the county to take on a new initiative . . . and to have it really flourish through the first year has been wonderful," Shaw said.

The National Capital Minority Business Opportunity Committee will hold its first Minority Enterprise Development Day on Oct. 6. Registration is required by Sept. 10; tickets for the breakfast event, "Achieving Success Through Contracting and Financial Partnerships," are $25. For more information, go to

Necola Y. Shaw, executive director of the National Capital Minority Business Opportunity Committee, with Kwasi Holman, president of the Prince George's County Economic Development Corp., which established the group. The committee is funded by a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Commerce Department.Shaw says the group has met or exceeded seven of eight targets in its work assisting minority firms.