Eric Morrissette Visits Georgia MBDA Business Center at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute

The Georgia MBDA Business Center (Georgia MBC) recently hosted Eric Morrissette, acting under secretary of commerce for minority business development, U.S. Department of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), for a site visit to the Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) on April 22, 2024. Morrissette was there to demonstrate MBDA’s commitment to EI2 and Georgia MBC, which, as a federal funding agency, delivers value and support to Georgia MBC clients.

Morrissette was welcomed by David Bridges, vice president of EI2, the country’s oldest, largest and most comprehensive university-based program of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization, and economic development. After Morrissette briefly introduced himself and his work, Bridges detailed the organization’s intent.

“Everyone who works at EI2 came here for a reason: to help people lift themselves up,” he said. “We are capacity builders; we want to be here to transfer knowledge to you. We are about economic opportunity for all,” he added, before launching a presentation that detailed the various components of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, as well as the Georgia MBC’s place within it. Funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Georgia MBC helps businesses access capital, increase profitability, and scale their businesses.

Donna Ennis, EI2’s director of community engagement and program development and the Center’s operator representative, spoke further on the Georgia MBC, while acknowledging the Southeast MBDA Business Growth Hub, stakeholders and strategic alliances, including program sponsors Ebco, Georgia Power Foundation, and Trane Technologies.

Ennis is also co-director of the Georgia Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing (Georgia AIM), which works to drive adoption of AI in U.S. manufacturing, and she noted the ways in which that program dovetails with MBDA’s mission. Due to funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), Georgia AIM is reaching Georgia residents who are historically underrepresented in manufacturing. In addition, Ennis said, “We are always looking for gaps in the technological ecosystem and how we can fill [them].”

Jennifer Pasley, Georgia MBDA Business Center project director opened the floor for testimonials from clients, before Ennis initiated a general discussion where participants shared questions, concerns, and insights with Morrissette. Representatives from Southern Company, Atlanta Business League, Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Georgia Supplier Development Council discussed the challenges facing businesses owned by socially and/or economically disadvantaged individuals (SEDIs). Georgia MBDA Center clients DoverStaffing/DoverSolutions, eSpin Technologies, Freeing Returns, IBEX, RYSE Creative Village, and The Royster Group shared their companies’ journeys to success with the Center’s assistance and the challenges they faced along the way including access to capital and opportunities.

Said Morrissette of his office’s mission, “I have the best job, because it is to create wealth in communities around this country. It’s allowing people to penetrate markets that haven’t been penetrated before, allowing them to realize their dreams and hopes in business. No part of my mandate [is] to just give out things. It’s allowing people who want something to better seize it … and my job is to show them how, through our networks.”

Georgia MBDA Business Center Client Scores “Major” Win

A Big Night for Client Next Play 360° and Scoot Henderson

Group photo
Scoot Henderson (center), a Georgia MBDA Business Center client, celebrates with family and friends following his joining the NBA in the 2023 draft.

The Georgia MBDA Business Center congratulates Scoot Henderson and his parents, Crystal and Chris Henderson, co-founders of portfolio client Next Play 360°, for Scoot’s selection in June by the Portland Trail Blazers as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. Scoot, formerly the youngest player in the NBA G-League, spent the past two years playing for the G-League team Ignite. 

Next Play 360° is dedicated to developing the whole person through a robust program that focuses on four core pillars: athletics, academics, leadership, and community. Through this program,  Next Play 360° helps student athletes like Scoot become as competitive in the classroom as on the court and change what they think is possible for their futures.

“We could not be more thrilled for Scoot, Crystal, and Christ Henderson,” said  Jennifer Pasley, the Georgia MBDA Business Center’s project director.

The Center has been working with Next Play 360° to secure SBA financing to purchase a multi-sports complex in Marietta, Georgia.

“Through our work with Next Play 360°, we have been fortunate to have a front-row seat to Scoot’s incredible NBA journey, and we wish him the best of luck in this exciting new endeavor.”

Georgia MBDA Business Center Client Named State’s 2023 Small Business Person of the Year

Georgia Tech’s Georgia Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Center client Ken Taunton was recently honored by the U.S. Small Business Administration as Georgia’s 2023 Small Business Person of the Year. Taunton is the president and CEO of executive search and professional staffing firm The Royster Group.

The 50 state winners were honored in Washington, D.C., during Small Business Week. From left: Karl Vaillancourt, Precision Construction Services, California; Juanny Romero, Mothership Coffee Roasters, Nevada; Vice President Kamala Harris; Ken Taunton, The Royster Group, Georgia; Erik Wright and Jared Malapit, Precision Construction Services (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Taunton got his start recruiting with a Fortune 100 pharmaceutical company in sales and human resources as the southeast recruiting manager. After ten years, he went to work at an international executive search firm recruiting C-suite and high-paying positions in the healthcare sector, where “he never saw people of color or women” as part of the pipeline search pool, he said. When he started his own recruiting and professional staffing firm, he set out to change that. “My goal was executive recruiting, concentrating on diversity. Every engagement that we worked on, there would be a diverse slate of candidates,” he said.

The Royster Group is a certified minority-owned business founded in 2001. Since then, its focus on diversity has garnered business success. The company has expanded from a one-person shop to 80 employees. In 2008, Royster’s revenue was $2 million; today, it is more than $20 million.

The Royster Group’s growth caught the attention of the SBA, which singled Taunton out for the award from among nine nominations in Georgia.

“What made Ken stand out was the phenomenal growth his business had,” said Terri Dennison, district director of the SBA Georgia District Office, “not only growth in the number of employees but also growth in sales and profits. It’s an example of how SBA and other business development resources can make a difference in a small business’s long-term success.”

Taunton, too, credits SBA and other resources for his success. In 2008, he was part of SBA’s inaugural emerging leaders’ program for business executives, e200. That program helped him navigate the Great Recession and pivot to securing federal contracts. He’s also a graduate of the SBA 8(a), a program that helps small, disadvantaged businesses secure federal contracts.

He decided in 2006 to expand his business, which had focused on corporate recruiting, into recruiting for the federal government in an effort to diversify. That’s when the Georgia MBDA Business Center got involved. “The Center helped me with my business plan, business development, and my strategy on how to get into the government sector, and with proposals, because the government space is a whole different animal,” Taunton said. “The Georgia MBDA Business Center was instrumental in helping me get into that space.”

The Royster Group has maintained its relationship with the Georgia MBDA Business Center since 2002. The Center is part of his proposal team, he said, reviewing them before submissions to ensure all the “Is are dotted, and the Ts are crossed.”

“Ken is a great choice to represent Georgia as Small Business Person of the Year,” said Donna Ennis, operator representative of the Georgia MBDA Business Center. She has worked with Taunton for more than a decade to help scale his company. “We’ve done a lot of strategic growth work with him and his team. We’ve recommended training, programs, and resources. We’ve become a trusted advisor as he grows his business, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for him.”

The Royster Group currently does a lot of work with the Defense Health Agency (DHA) and Department of Defense, staffing hospitals on military bases across the country. “That’s what got us through COVID,” Taunton said. “We had these long-term contracts that were mission essential, meaning that regardless of what happens in the world, they’re always going to need the healthcare providers and contractors we employ. The Georgia MBDA Business Center has been instrumental in ensuring that we continue to be ready and able to do business in the government sector.”

Enterprise Innovation Institute’s Donna Ennis Presents at the Federal Laboratories Consortium National Conference

Federal labs, including facilities such as the Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee, MIT Lincoln Lab in Massachusetts, and the Agricultural Resource Service, have technology transfer as part of their missions. This means that, like the work of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, leaders in federal labs don’t want to do research for the sake of research. They are working to improve people’s lives, and they need businesses and organizations to help transfer their research technology into the real world to further that mission.

Donna Ennis speaks at the Federal Laboratories National Conference in Cleveland, Ohio

Enter Donna Ennis, the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s director of diversity engagement and program development, co-director of the Georgia Artificial Intelligence Manufacturing Corridor (Georgia AIM), and operator representative for the Georgia Minority Business Development Agency Business Center. It’s a lot of hats for one person to wear, and she wore them all as she spoke at the national Federal Laboratories Consortium (FLC) conference — a sort of national trade association meeting — in Cleveland, Ohio, in March.

She was asked to present on one of her areas of expertise — connecting people and businesses with the right resources.

“I discussed Georgia AIM and tech transfer,” she said. Georgia AIM, a new initiative — funded by a $65 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) — supports a statewide effort to combine artificial intelligence and manufacturing innovations with transformational workforce and outreach programs.

“Federal labs are looking for ways to collaborate with minority-owned businesses. I talked about helping us identify the labs that focus on AI technology and advanced manufacturing, so that we could work more closely with those labs for Georgia AIM, and perhaps identify businesses that could do tech transfer. Labs are really interested in technology transfer. They’re doing all this research, and they want to be able to transfer that technology out of the federal labs. We’re in conversations about it, including with some of the people I met at the session.”

Ennis sees attendance at conferences like FLC as vital to her work.

“Because I’m in a new role, I’m focused on getting national exposure for Georgia AIM and making the strategic relationships that are necessary,” she said. “Federal labs could be a huge component with regard to identifying technology that could then be transferred into Georgia companies.”

Artificial Intelligence Humanity with a Social Justice Lens

The Enterprise Innovation Institute’s Brandy Nagel is part of a team that received $100K to study racial bias in infrared medical devices

Brandy Nagel, program manager for the Georgia Minority Business Development Agency Business Center, attended what she thought was an information session on artificial intelligence for social justice.  Three hours later she was part of a team that brought home $100,000 to study and correct racial bias in infrared medical devices.

Temporal (forehead) thermometers and pulse oximeters became everyday pieces of medical equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic. But studies show these devices and others that use infrared technology are not as accurate when used on people with darker skin as they are on people with lighter skin. Pulse oximeters miss low oxygen levels in 11% of Black patients and temporal thermometers miss 23% of fevers in Black patients. These inaccuracies have immense public health implications, not just in the U.S., but around the world.

Brandy Nagel, program manager for the Georgia MBDA Business Center

“I showed up because it was described as artificial intelligence for social justice,” Nagel said about the AI.Humanity with a Social Justice Lens Pitch Competition. “I know almost nothing about AI, but I understand social justice as a problem to be solved. I thought the event would help me understand how AI can be applied.”

Nagel was expecting a lecture or a seminar at the event, which was sponsored by the Emory-Georgia Tech collaborative research seed grant program, AI.Humanity, and held at Coda at Tech Square.

“When I got there, there was a conversation already going, so I joined a group,” she said. “We were talking about a problem and how AI could be applied to solve that problem. And then the organizers said, go to your breakout rooms. You’ve got 45 minutes to write your pitch.”

Despite knowing little about the medical technology under discussion, Nagel knew she could contribute to the team. “I know about pitches, and I know how to prepare for a pitch,” she said. She was able to help hone the idea for the pitch committee.

Funding for the grant comes equally from Emory and Georgia Tech and teams include members from both institutions. Nagel’s team includes from Emory University: Dr. Sivasubramanium Bhavani, assistant professor of medicine in the Emory University School of Medicine; Dr. Michele Sumler, associate professor of anesthesiology in the med school; and Cassidy Puckett, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology. The members from Georgia Tech are: Molei Tao, associate professor in the School of Mathematics; Sheila Isbell, research scientist in the Georgia Tech Research Institute Information and Communications Laboratory (GTRI-ICL); and Nagel.

Isbell was drawn to the event because of the opportunity to explore using AI for the good of humanity.

“In much of the news, people are concerned about how AI is taking jobs or about bias in AI,” Isbell said. “But I was interested in working with other people to see how we can use AI to help. I was also interested because it’s a collaboration between Georgia Tech and Emory, and we’ll be doing something in the health and wellness sphere, which I really love to do.”

With Nagel at the white board, the team mapped out its approach. “We talked about where would we get the data? Because this is something where the data is a significant part of figuring out how to solve the problem,” Nagel said. “Is the solution in how the device is designed? Or is the solution in a different policy? We don’t know.”

Isbell’s forte is dealing with data, making her an integral part of a team that has so many different perspectives, a strength that made them successful in their pitch, she said.

“We had sociologists. We had an anesthesiologist. We had someone who does AI. I do data,” she said. “It was important that we had the diversity of thought and experience in our team for this project. If we could help doctors know about what their devices are doing, then they can make better decisions. We don’t want people to mis-interpret the signals about their patients, therefore causing more health disparities.”

Following the 45-minute discussion period, the team was ready. The pitch covered three objectives with the goal of creating more equitable medical devices:

    1. Perform a systematic review of infrared technologies and devices that are currently used in healthcare systems to understand the scope of the problem.
    2. Conduct a pilot observational study to measure the discrepancy between the information provided by infrared medical devices and that of gold standard devices.
    3. Develop an AI algorithm to calibrate medical device measurements with skin pigmentation using results from the pilot study.

With the pitch competition won, what happens next?

Nagel, who isn’t a medical device expert, does understand design thinking. “The first step of design thinking is empathy,” she said, “deeply understand the customer or the beneficiary’s experience, not just their point of view, but what they experience. In this case, the beneficiary might be a patient, but it could also be a medical professional who’s trying to quickly triage in an emergency room and figure out who needs attention first.

“One thing that I think is exciting about this is that our team can be informed by going into an emergency room and seeing how this works,” she said. “What’s the real-world experience that may help inform how we solve the problem? I think it’s AI. But I think there’s also going to be a personal touch.”

A second team also won $100,000 for its pitch AI-Assisted Social Justice in Tissue and Organ Biomanufacturing. The team, comprised of both Georgia Tech and Emory researchers, will use domain-specific AI-based approaches to develop tissue bioprinting processes that are optimized for patients of various racial and ethnic backgrounds.

“I think what really intrigued me about this is that I saw it as a solvable problem and something that could have a significant impact,” Nagel said. “The pulse oximeter and the forehead thermometer, these two devices were used to help diagnose millions of people with COVID, particularly in the early days of the pandemic. If we look back on the deaths, and we see that a disproportionate number of darker skinned people died, then we might say it was because of a bad diagnostic tool. That sounds like an important problem to solve.”

 

Georgia-AIM Hosts Kick-Off Meeting

Georgia Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing (Georgia-AIM) recently held its initial kick-off meeting in October 2022.

Over a two-day period, more than 100 participants from across the state came to Atlanta to brainstorm, collaborate, and share best practices as the group launched its effort in earnest following its winning of a $65 million award from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) in September.

Led by the Georgia Institute of Technology and a coalition of private and public partners across the state, Georgia-AIM seeks to reimagine job opportunities and wage growth in economically distressed and underserved rural parts of Georgia by melding artificial intelligence (AI) with manufacturing, an all-too-important segment of the state’s economy. Manufacturing’s economic impact to the state exceeds $60 billion a year and it employs more than 400,000, Georgia Department of Economic Development figures show.

The goal is to develop new opportunities through outreach programs designed to create a transformational Georgia workforce that will embrace artificial intelligence not be mystified or afraid of it, said Donna Ennis, director of Diversity Engagement and Program Development in Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute and also director of its Georgia MBDA Business Center. Ennis is leading the effort along with Aaron Stebner, associate professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Materials Science and Engineering, and Thomas R. Kurfess, executive director of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute.

A large part of the the Georgia-AIM effort, which is also focused on serving historically underrepresented and underserved groups, is getting people to understand artificial intelligence goes beyond robots and that it’s not about taking jobs away, but leveraging this ever-evolving technology to create the jobs of the future, Ennis said.

AI is already an integral part of daily life from smart homes and cars to cities and mobile devices, she said.

“We want to demystify what it is,” she said. “We want to be able to show you that there is a place for you in the artificial intelligence world, particularly as it relates to the manufacturing.”

Kick-off event attendees were able to network and get more in-depth presentations regarding the various projects under the Georgia-AIM umbrella. The projects include building automation solutions tailored for rural manufacturers, industry pilot trials, workforce training for AI manufacturing technologies, prototyping labs and studios, curriculum development for K-12 students, and an virtual reality training innovation lab.

In addition to Georgia Tech, the coalition of 12 public-private partners includes:

·       Georgia Department of Community Affairs

·       Georgia Cyber Center

·       Houston County Development Authority

·       KITTLabs

·       Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs

·       Robins Air Force Base 21st Century Partnership

·       Spelman College

·       Southwest Georgia Regional Commission

·       Technologists of Color

·       Technology Association of Georgia Education Collaborative

·       Technical College System of Georgia

·       University of Georgia

U.S. Department of Agriculture Awards Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership Grant to Address Food Safety

Grant to be used to train food and beverage entrepreneurs in underserved communities in best practices

The pandemic upended the food and beverage industries in ways that are just coming to light, such as the destruction of the peer and mentoring networks new entrepreneurs rely on to learn how to grow their businesses from basement to production.

To help rebuild those essential learning networks and revive some of the training they once offered, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded a three-year, $550,000 grant to Georgia Tech’s Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP).

GaMEP, housed in the Enterprise Innovation Institute, Georgia Tech’s economic development arm, will train food industry entrepreneurs in Georgia and the U.S. island territory of Puerto Rico in food safety practices and regulations. The grant funding will also be used to train the trainers, which will help rebuild those critical networks.

This is the largest sponsored grant the Enterprise Innovation Institute has received from USDA, marking the importance of the food sector in Georgia.

“The food manufacturing industry is a focus area for GaMEP, as it is the largest manufacturing industry sector in Georgia,” said GaMEP Director Tim Israel. “We have increased our food-industry specific services significantly over the past five years, and this grant will allow us to expand our reach to serve more small and underserved companies to coach them on safe and efficient production processes that will help them grow.”

Expanding GaMEP’s reach to minority and underserved populations is an essential element of the grant.

“The purpose of this grant is to provide free — and this was really important to us — free food-safety training,” said Wendy White, industry manager, food safety and quality, at GaMEP and grant manager. “We’re also coupling that with business development training.”

The training will be focused on entrepreneurs in underserved communities in metro Atlanta, Middle and South Georgia, and Puerto Rico, all areas that have experienced a lot of growth in the food sector.

“Puerto Rico has this amazing cultural heritage around food. Because it is an island, they have concerns about food sovereignty — that is, making enough food to support themselves,” said Brandy Nagel, co-manager on the grant and program manager in the Georgia Minority Business Development Agency Business Center at the Enterprise Innovation Institute. “Part of why we’re including Puerto Rico in this grant is to build capacity on the island for food entrepreneurs to be safe and to scale up their businesses so that they can be successful and profitable.”

Grant partners Fort Valley State University, in Middle Georgia, and PRiMEX, the MEP center in Puerto Rico, will work with GaMEP to reach entrepreneurs in their regions.

The grant also includes funding for capacity building, in the form of train-the-trainer education in the three regions. “Our trainers will continue to disseminate this information to their communities after we’re gone,” White said. “What’s exciting about that is that it will continue to have impact for years to come as more entrepreneurs get this training, which will only serve to strengthen the ecosystem.”

Learn more about GaMEP’s commitment to food manufacturing companies in minority and underserved communities in this video.

About the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP)
The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech is a program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, whose purpose is to help manufacturers improve their performance in the global market. GaMEP offers coaching and training in operational excellence, technology implementation, leadership and strategy, marketing, energy management, and sustainability, to manufacturers across the state to help increase top-line growth, reduce bottom-line costs, and boost the economic well-being of Georgia. GaMEP is part of the MEP National Network, a unique public-private partnership that delivers comprehensive, proven solutions to U.S. manufacturers, fueling growth and advancing U.S. manufacturing. To learn more, visit gamep.org.

About the Georgia MBDA Business Center
As part of a national network of 64 centers and special projects funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), the Georgia MBDA Business Center helps minority business enterprises (MBEs) obtain capital, access markets and business opportunities domestically and globally, increase profitability, and scale operations. By providing technical assistance, coaching, education, and contacts, the center has helped MBEs create more than 7,000 jobs, and achieve nearly $6.4 billion in contracts and finance, while remaining competitive economic engines in their respective markets. To learn more, visit georgiambdabusinesscenter.org

About the Enterprise Innovation Institute
The Enterprise Innovation Institute, the Georgia Institute of Technology’s economic development unit, serves all of Georgia through a variety of services and programs that build and scale startups, grow business enterprises, and energize ecosystem builders. As the nation’s largest and most comprehensive university-based economic development organization, the Institute’s expertise and reach are global; its innovation, entrepreneurship, and ecosystem development programs serve governments, universities, nonprofits, and other organizations worldwide. In 2021, the Enterprise Innovation Institute served more than 15,500 businesses, communities, and entrepreneurs. Those clients reported startup investment capital exceeding $1.1 billion and creating or saving more than 11,300 jobs. The Enterprise Innovation Institute’s total 2021 financial impact exceeded $2.9 billion. Learn more at innovate.gatech.edu.

Serena Williams Lobs Venture Funds to Enterprise Innovation Institute Client Lillii RNB

Barbara Jones-Brown headshot
Barbara Jones-Brown.

ATDC and Georgia MBDA Business Center client Barbara Jones-Brown has received $3 million in venture funding, led by tennis great Serena Williams’ early-stage venture fund. The investment in Jones-Brown’s company, Lillii RNB Inc., will support Freeing Returns, a platform that analyzes product return data to detect fraud.

 

Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, home to ATDC and the Georgia MBDA Business Center, first met Jones-Brown in 2015, when she and her team were the grand prize winners of the ATDC FinTech Hack Competition, sponsored by payment processing provider Worldpay.

 

“I think at least four or five of the problems they wanted to solve during that hackathon were related to [retail] returns. We knew that space very well,” Jones-Brown said. “We took on all of the challenges they had around returns, we built all of that into the application that is now Freeing Returns, and that has gotten us this $3 million investment.”

 

The hackathon was the beginning of a fruitful relationship with Georgia Tech. She has also worked with the Opportunity Hub at its home in Tech Square, received support from the ATDC following the hackathon win, hired Georgia Tech students as interns and employees, and now is a client of the Georgia MBDA Business Center. “We’ve taken full advantage of having Georgia Tech in the backyard,” she said.

 

And while the resources Georgia Tech offers have been important – and were, in fact, the catalyst for the development of Freeing Returns – Jones-Brown has also participated in other entrepreneurial programs in Atlanta.

 

“One of the great values of the Enterprise Innovation Institute is we engage in hand-offs — from external partners and to external partners, as well as within Georgia Tech,” said Enterprise Innovation Institute Vice President David Bridges. “We are a valued connector and capacity builder within the Atlanta and Georgia ecosystem.”

 

That ecosystem came full circle in 2020. Jones-Brown was graduating from the Morehouse Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center’s Ascend Atlanta program, a small business support program for minority and women-owned companies funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co. Georgia MBDA Business Center Director Donna Ennis spoke at the graduation. Jones-Brown reached out to Ennis and became a client.

 

“We’re really helping her with capacity building,” Ennis said about the work her program is doing with Jones-Brown. “That’s the coaching that she’s getting and connecting her into different networks. We’ll continue to work with her to try to identify opportunities for her product.”

 

Meanwhile, Jones-Brown has $3 million to spend. Part of it will support work her company is doing with Salesforce. She’s also recruited new talent into the company, leaders in the retail loss prevention arena, to work on predicting fraud rather than responding to it, she said. “We’re adding artificial intelligence and machine learning to the data analytics that we’re collecting. We will start getting better at predicting the fraud before it happens, so that we can alert retailers to potential fraudulent transactions.”

 

And it all started with a hackathon at the ATDC.

Georgia MBDA Business Center and Siemens USA Announce Winners of Siemens Entrepreneurship Grants

Gavin Ireland, founder of Georgia Green Energy Services, gives a presentation to Siemens and Georgia Tech leaders. (Photo: Allison L. Carter)

Georgia Green Energy Services, an Atlanta-based firm in the electrical construction industry, was recently awarded $20,000 from Siemens USA as part of the technology company’s ongoing commitment to expanding vendor diversity in the supply chain.

Founded by Gavin Ireland in 2007, Georgia Green Energy Services is one of nine Black-owned businesses across the country awarded the $20,000 Siemens Entrepreneurship Grant. The companies will join Siemens’ supplier database, which is comprised of more than 3,700 small and diverse businesses. That business segment represents more than a quarter of Siemens’ entire supplier base.

“What Siemens is doing is important because it’s impactful for the community and for business owners to be able to see that large corporations are making make these investments,” Ireland said. “It means a lot to me. A lot of times, as minority businesses, we have to work with limited resources, so this investment in us is very important.”

Siemens’ announcement was in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) and the Georgia MBDA Business Center at Georgia Tech.

The nine winning recipient businesses were selected from U.S. cities where Siemens has a significant footprint: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, and Sacramento. These grants, now totaling $320,000 over the past two years, complement the nearly $1 billion that Siemens USA spends annually doing business with small and diverse-owned firms.

“What we’re seeking are those minority enterprises that deserve to be highlighted within the whole network — the people who are really making a difference and showing the way and working on things that are absolutely essential to our future,” said Siemens CEO Barbara Humpton during a recent visit to Georgia Tech’s campus, where the announcement was made. “This is about being in a network

From left, Gavin Ireland, 2022 Atlanta Siemens Grant recipient; Leonard Wright, 2021 Atlanta recipient; Siemens USA CEO Barbara Humpton; Donna M. Ennis, director of the Georgia MBDA Business Center at Georgia Tech’s ’s Enterprise Innovation Institute; Patric Stadtfeld, Siemens USA head of Supply Chain Management for the Americas; David Bridges, vice president of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, and Jennifer Pasley Georgia MBDA Business Center program manager. (Photo: Allison L. Carter)

together and working together to create change.”

In January 2022, MBDA Business Centers in those cities nominated 37 Black-owned businesses to apply for the Siemens grants. Nominees were selected based on criteria and specialties that aligned with industry demand: preventative and predictive maintenance, fire and security, electrical, construction, rail and transport, mobility solutions, and facilities and project management. The Georgia MBDA Business Center evaluated and selected the winners.

In addition to Georgia Green Energy Services, the other selected businesses are:

  • Maven Construction – Boston
  • E-Fix Housing Solutions – Charlotte
  • GCC Enterprises, LLC – Dallas
  • Onyx Enterprise, Inc. – Detroit
  • Arbor Electrical Service, Inc. – Miami
  • Evans Electrical Services, Inc. – New York
  • A M Electric, Inc. – Philadelphia
  • AHI Construction, Inc. – Sacramento

“Siemens continues to show its commitment to Black-owned businesses through the Siemens Entrepreneurship Grant,” said Donna M. Ennis, C.P.F., director of the Georgia MBDA Business Center and director of Diversity Engagement and Program Development at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. “The business community recognizes the importance of diversity and its economic impact on communities,” she said, noting that Georgia Green Energy Services is among the Georgia MBDA Business Center’s roster of clients.

“Grants and commitments like these not only provide a critical mechanism to enhance businesses’ viability through these challenging times, but to grow and thrive.”

Siemens Expands Supply Chain Diversity Through $140K in Grants to Small, Black-Owned Businesses

Collaboration with the Georgia Minority Business Development Agency Business Center at Georgia Tech supports diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship

 

WASHINGTON — Siemens USA today announced it will award $140,000 in grants to small, Black-owned businesses for the second consecutive year to support diversity, equity and inclusion in business development and entrepreneurship.

 

Siemens and the Georgia MBDA Business Center at Georgia Tech will select the winning recipient businesses in seven U.S. cities where Siemens has a significant footprint: Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Dallas, Detroit, Miami, and Sacramento. These grants, now totaling $280,000 over the past two years, contribute to Siemens USA’s annual investment of nearly $1 billion in small and diverse-owned businesses that comprise nearly a quarter of the company’s entire supplier base.

 

“At Siemens, we’ve made it a priority to do our part to help build a more resilient America, one that’s more equitable and inclusive,” said Nichelle Grant, head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Siemens USA. “This is why we want to make significant investments, such as this one, in businesses owned by women, people of color, veterans, and people with disabilities, among other diverse owners.”

 

The national network of 60-plus MBDA Business Centers and special projects — including the one housed at Georgia Tech — is funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency.

 

The MBDA Business Centers will nominate up to five finalist businesses for the grants in each city based on criteria that aligns with industry demand, including preventative and predictive maintenance, fire and security, electrical, construction, and facilities and project management. The Georgia MBDA Business Center at Georgia Tech will evaluate and select the winning recipient in each city. The winners will be announced in late February 2022, and each will receive a $20,000 grant.

 

“As we work to build and strengthen America’s economic resiliency, it’s critical that all sectors of the economy share in that,” said Donna Ennis, director of the Georgia MBDA Business Center. “Collaborative initiatives such as this effort with Siemens helps us achieve that mission.”

 

A 2021 White House Council of Economic Advisers report shows “differences in business ownership account for 20 percent of the wealth gap between average white and Black households.” In response to this analysis, President Biden recently announced a goal of increasing the share of contracts going to small and disadvantaged businesses by 50 percent by 2025. Grants such as these will help contribute to the administration’s goal of increasing opportunity for all underserved businesses.

 

“In order to remain resilient as a company, we must be diverse and equitable, which requires us to proactively help to close the representation gap in the supply chain,” said Patric Stadtfeld, head of Supply Chain Management for the Americas, Siemens USA. “We’re proud of our growing supplier database of more than 3,700 small and diverse businesses and will continue to support business development in underserved communities and cities across the country.”

 

Siemens USA is committed to giving businesses owned by minorities, women, the disadvantaged, the disabled, veterans, and other diverse suppliers maximum opportunity to participate in its competitive contracting and procurement processes. Supplier diversity contributes to excellence in the supply chain, leading to growth for Siemens and its suppliers in the marketplace, as well as helping to create social impacts on the changing demographic landscape of the United States. To learn more about Siemens USA’s Supplier Diversity Program, visit here.

 

Learn more about Siemens USA’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion at usa.siemens.com/diversity.

 

About Siemens Corp.
Siemens Corp.
 is a U.S. subsidiary of Siemens AG, a global technology powerhouse that has stood for engineering excellence, innovation, quality, reliability, and internationality for more than 170 years. Active around the world, the company focuses on intelligent infrastructure for buildings and distributed energy systems and on automation and digitalization in the process and manufacturing industries. Siemens brings together the digital and physical worlds to benefit customers and society. Through Mobility, a leading supplier of intelligent mobility solutions for rail and road transport, Siemens is helping to shape the world market for passenger and freight services. Via its majority stake in the publicly listed company Siemens Healthineers, Siemens is also a world-leading supplier of medical technology and digital health services. In addition, Siemens holds a minority stake in Siemens Energy, a global leader in the transmission and generation of electrical power that has been listed on the stock exchange since Sept. 28, 2020. In fiscal 2020, Siemens Group USA generated revenue of $17 billion and employs approximately 40,000 people serving customers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

 

About the Minority Business Development Agency
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is the only federal program solely dedicated to the growth and global competitiveness of minority business enterprises. MBDA invests in a national network of more than 60 business centers, specialty centers, and grantees. Our programs offer customized business development and industry-focused services to provide greater access to capital, contracts, and markets. With a vision of economic prosperity for all American business enterprises, MBDA programs, services, and initiatives focus on helping MBEs grow today, while preparing them to meet the industry needs of tomorrow. To learn more about the MBDA and its business center network, visit www.mbda.gov.

 

About the Georgia MBDA Business Center
As part of a national network of 60-plus centers, the Georgia MBDA Center helps minority business enterprises (MBEs) access capital, increase profitability, scale, and grow their businesses. Funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Georgia MBDA Business Center is a program of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive university-based program of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization, and economic development. To learn more, please visit: georgiambdabusinesscenter.org.