MARKETPLACE, the Governor’s Conference on Minority Business Development, once again logged record attendance in 2017, as it has done each year for the past several years. More than 850 people attended the main conference, with a sold-out crowd of 200 registering for the Small Business Academy that preceded the conference.
MARKETPLACE, in its 36th year, is a two-day event that includes workshops on business topics, a networking reception, a breakfast and luncheon with awards presented, an expo hall, and organized meetings with buyers from government and the private sector. This year had a record number of buyer meetings, with 39 buyer agencies attending and 782 individual meetings taking place.
“The MARKETPLACE conference provides unparalleled opportunities for business owners to connect with one another, gain knowledge to help their companies grow, and meet potential buyers for their products and services,” said Barbara LaMue, vice president of business and community development with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), which hosts MARKETPLACE. “It’s such an important event for the minority-owned, woman-owned and veteran-owned business communities, and WEDC is proud to sponsor it each year.”
The main MARKETPLACE conference includes a breakfast and luncheon where awards are presented to minority-, woman- and veteran-owned businesses that have demonstrated community leadership, as well as individuals who have provided outstanding leadership in community economic development. View a list of this year’s award winners.
On the day prior to the main conference, MARKETPLACE also includes workshops on topics including certification as a minority-owned, woman-owned or veteran-owned business; government contracting and procurement; and Wisconsin business and demographic data.
And for the past four years, the main event has been preceded by a half-day Small Business Academy. The brainchild of Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, the free event includes small business success stories and educational topics of specific interest to someone who’s recently started a business or someone who’s thinking of starting one.
This year at MARKETPLACE, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced that WEDC would provide $1.475 million in grant funds to four organizations focused on minority business development, over a 12-month period that spans parts of two different WEDC fiscal years. When funds provided to the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce are included, the total reaches $1.5 million.
These four organizations—the African American Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin, the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin and the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce—have been officially designated as key strategic partners in helping WEDC create a friendly climate for business in Wisconsin. The grant funds will support initiatives such as business training workshops, financial awareness programs, assistance with securing financing, networking opportunities, and one-on-one mentoring. Each of the minority chambers also administers a revolving loan fund supported by WEDC, and a portion of the funds will be used to administer those programs and assist businesses in applying for loans.
“The core work of the minority chambers helps to carry out WEDC’s mission of advancing and maximizing opportunities for businesses, communities and people to thrive,” Mark R. Hogan, secretary and CEO of WEDC, said in announcing the grants. “We could not provide the same level of support to minority-owned businesses without the partnership of these organizations, who provide hands-on, direct assistance to new and growing businesses and business owners within their respective communities.”