TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Hillsborough County Minority and Small Business Division has grown with the goal of increasing the number of minority-owned, women-owned and small businesses doing business with the county of Hillsborough.
Ken Jones, the new division manager for MBE and SBE programs, said his main objective was to ensure diversity within companies that win contracts with the county.
“I have a passion for minority affairs,” Jones said. “I owned a business, my family members owned a business, my grandfather owned a gas station.”
This work is personal to Jones, which is why he said he is focused on helping as many local minority businesses as possible.
“I bought a business in 2007,” he said. “I didn’t have a crystal ball at the time, otherwise I wouldn’t have bought a business in 2007. Two years later, I had to close the doors. I can relate to some of the concerns they have and use some of my personal story.
In 2021, Hillsborough County’s MBE/SBE program helped minority-owned businesses and other small businesses secure approximately $44 million of the $284 million in contracts that were awarded call for tenders. In 2020, those numbers were $58 million and $382 million.
Jones hopes to increase the amount that goes to minority businesses.
“We can’t sit here in the office and say okay, the door is open, we have the panel open in the front, but we have to be intentional and meet people from the community,” he said. he declares.
Cornerstone Barricades is one of the companies that has been offered procurement opportunities under this program. It has been around for six years and provides road safety equipment to contractors.
“Every contract we’ve won has led us to hire more people, provided those jobs are the lifeblood of what we do,” said Cornerstone Barricades President Seyi Falade. “I feel like we’re joining in a partnership with Hillsborough County to create jobs.”
Falade said she was grateful to be part of the MBE program. She said she uses this platform to help other minorities in the community.
“When doors open for you, you need to be able to open doors for others,” Falade said. “Every time you give someone the opportunity, it actually has a ripple and ripple effect.”
The program is not limited to certain companies. Lawn care companies, restaurants and many more can seek to join. Jones hopes he can help more minority businesses thrive, which he says will help the community as a whole.
“It’s not just the business, but we see it as an anchor, a footprint, as an anchor to get into those communities and help elevate and increase the economic prosperity of those communities” , said Jones.
The program organizes events and meetings that entrepreneurs can attend to learn more about the programs. Click here for more details on the county website.