Allegheny County MWDBE Department Open House provides networking, information-sharing

SHARING RESOURCES—Lisa Edmonds, deputy director of the Allegheny County MWDBE Department, encourages the audience to take advantage of information shared during its annual open house, Sept. 13. (Photos by Diane I. Daniels)

The mission of the Allegheny County Department of Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise is to build the capacity of MWDBE-certified businesses, monitor contracts to ensure compliance with Allegheny County goals and provide outreach and technical assistance to the business community.
On Sept. 13 at Two Chatham Center, knowledge, technical assistance and networking was in abundance as the agency, along with their partner, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, shared information during their annual open house. Explaining the importance of the gathering, Lisa Edmonds, deputy director of the Allegheny County MWDBE department, said the goal of the event was for participants inclusive of MBEs and non-MBEs to gain information and network with each other along with the county’s resource partners and government entities. She also encouraged qualified participants to take advantage of the website by signing up during the open house.
An online-only entity, Public Purchase monitors and evaluates government agencies and procurement systems, as well as published bids and news reports from tens of thousands of agency sources. It is dedicated to streamlining the procurement process and expediting the bid process with customized solutions that ultimately lead to lower government agency costs.
Deputy County Manager Barbara Parees, filling in for Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, said the MWDBE department is in a unique position, having the opportunity to work with so many businesses in various stages of development. She defined an entrepreneur as an individual that establishes and runs a small business and assumes all the risks and rewards of the ventures. “We are here tonight to bet on the rewards, and I say, bet on yourself.”
She encouraged attendees to take advantage of all the information and resources available through the county and MWDBE office.
Other organizations participating included the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission and Advantage Credit Counseling Services.
TONI SILVA, senior director of supplier relations at UPMC and an MBE Advisory Committee Member, participates in the annual open house.

As a business owner, no matter what phase of establishment, according to Heather Murray, manager of community relations and education at Advantage Credit Counseling Services, it is important to be aware of your credit rating. She suggested obtaining a free copy from the three credit reporting agencies. The credit bureaus include Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Information can be obtained by telephone, on-line or regular mail.
Murray also outlined the five Cs of credit, what is often used to determine credit worthiness–capacity, credit, conditions, capital and collateral. FICO scores can range from 300 to 900 with 750 and up in the excellent range and 584 and lower falling in the no credit or limited credit range.
Suggested key goals for entrepreneurs are to reduce existing credit card and personal debt, improve one’s credit score to prepare for business funding, operating needs and establish a business saving account to fund startup, growth or business expense emergencies.
The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC) encompasses the 10-county region including Pittsburgh. According to Tom Klevan, its multimodal planning manager, SPC helps counties, cities, municipalities, and townships use federal transportation funds in a timely way. Its mission states that it is the cooperative forum for regional collaboration, planning, and public decision-making. Operating with public involvement and trust, the commission develops plans and programs for public investments, and fulfills federal and state requirements for transportation, economic development, and local government-assistance programs.
TAKING ADVANTAGE—Handyman Andrew Lusted registers on the website.

Under planning and development, SPC offers business finance loans, export development assistance, government procurement programs, Keystone Opportunity Zones, local food value chain initiatives, and local technology assistance programs the Partnerships for Regional Economic Performance initiatives and the Water Resource Center. Information on SPC programs can be obtained calling 412-391-5590 or visiting their website,
Under the leadership of Ruth Byrd Smith, the Allegheny County MWDBE department objective is to ensure that all MBEs, WBEs and DBEs are provided the maximum opportunity to obtain and perform on contracts. The goals are 13 percent for MBEs and two percent for WBEs and remain in effect throughout the life of each contract. To accomplish the objective, according to MWDBE department officials, it focuses on a primary function—to provide certification to disadvantaged business owners wishing to provide products and services to the region.
Applauding the MWDBE department for the services they provide, Senior Director of Supplier Relations at UPMC and an MBE Advisory Committee Member, Toni Silva, encouraged participants to take advantage of services offered by the SPC and MWDBE department.
“The free certification, education and training provided by the MWDBE department is invaluable,” she said.
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