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Kaine, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Support Rural Minority-Owned Businesses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) have introduced the Reaching America’s Rural Minority Businesses Act, which would authorize the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) within the Department of Commerce to establish up to 10 business centers at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to serve rural and underserved communities. MBDA’s existing Minority Business Centers are concentrated in select urban areas in 18 states, leaving vast portions of the country without easy access to MBDA’s services. 

“MBDA centers have long been integral in supporting minority-owned businesses, but many rural businesses face challenges tapping into these federal resources. This difficulty is particularly devastating amid the ongoing economic crisis brought on by COVID-19,” Kaine said. “By combining the talent and expertise of HBCUs and MBDA centers, this bill will offer vital means for rural minority-owned businesses, helping them thrive and expand.” 

“At Norfolk State University (NSU) we understand that small business serves as the backbone of the American economy. Yet for far too long, minority small businesses have struggled to gain access to the capital, technical support, and mentorship opportunities needed to start and grow successful businesses. NSU’s Innovation Center is on the forefront of addressing these challenges by working to develop and support the next generation of minority entrepreneurs. Our Center, which opened in 2019, has helped to support hundreds of local entrepreneurs by hosting community forums, specialized workshops and providing a workspace for individuals launching their business platforms. The Reaching America’s Rural Minority Business Act is commonsense legislation that will provide America’s HBCUs with access to the critical resources needed to help minority owned businesses thrive in rural America. We thank Senators Kaine and Wicker for advancing this bipartisan bill and urge their colleagues in the House and Senate to support the legislation,” said Norfolk State University President Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston.

The legislation would authorize $10 million a year for the creation of up to 10 rural business centers at HBCUs. Eligible institutions would not have to be located in a rural area but would need to demonstrate how they would serve a rural or underserved minority population.

HBCUs would also be able to form a network with other HBCUs or institutions of higher learning, which would strengthen the capacity of an established center and broaden its outreach. 

The rural business centers would provide education, training, and technical assistance to rural minority businesses. Specifically, the centers would assist with: 

  • Implementing broadband internet service, digital literacy, and e-commerce.
  • Promoting manufacturing in the United States.
  • Meeting gaps in the supply chain of critical supplies and essential goods and services.
  • Improving transportation and logistics.
  • Promoting trade and export opportunities.
  • Facilitating entrepreneurship in rural areas. 

As an active member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and member of the Senate HBCU Caucus, Senator Kaine has long focused his efforts on addressing the needs of rural and underserved communities. Kaine is a strong supporter of Virginia’s HBCUs. Last year, Kaine successfully pushed to get the FUTURE Act signed into law to restore $255 million annually in federal funding for HBCUs and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). Additionally, Kaine helped secure $93 million in critical funding to strengthen HBCUs and MSIs as part of the December government spending deal. In July, Kaine introduced the Expanding Medical Education Act to help address the lack of representation of rural students, underserved students, and students of color in the physician pipeline by providing grants to colleges and universities to establish or expand medical schools in underserved areas or at minority-serving institutions, including HBCUs. 

Kaine is also an original cosponsor of the Heroes Small Business Lifeline Act, a comprehensive package that would permanently reauthorize MBDA funding and provide additional relief and resources to small businesses, including targeted supported for minority small businesses.

The legislation is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tim Scott (R-SC), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Chris Coons (D-DE).

Click here to read a one-page summary of the legislation.

Click here to read the full bill text.