HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Henrico is ramping up its efforts to help small minority-owned businesses in the county. Officials say that section of the business community was hit especially hard by the pandemic.
Anthony Romanello, Executive Director of the Henrico Economic Development Authority, says the county is now intentionally looking for ways to connect with women and minority-owned businesses or SWaM.
"Trying to make those very purposeful connections to the resources that are out there," said Romanello.
Romanello says the EDA recognizes the disparity in opportunities for small and minority-owned businesses and decided something needed to change.
"2020 was certainly a year of reflection for all of us, and the EDA wanted to see how we could reach out to all of our businesses," said Romanello.
Henrico's EDA teamed up with the state of Virginia and Henrico's supplier diversity manager, Jeff Conley, to better promote equity throughout the business community.
"A lot of folks just don't know the opportunities that exist," said Conley.
"We have a map, and we are willing to be the guide," he added.
The team came up with a two-pronged approach to connect with and help business owners. First, they'd meet with new and existing minority businesses to discuss supply chain, vendor, and contractor needs to connect and create a more diverse array of suppliers in the county. They also plan to provide webinars that walk business owners through the SWaM certification process.
"We wanted to start those conversations on the front end, so they are mindful of the opportunities that are there," said Romanello.
"They (SWaM) are the drivers of our local economy, and they were the ones who were most impacted by COVID. The timing for this initiative and the partnership as we go forward is going to help our local economy."
The EDA hopes the focused effort will make Henrico County a place where all business owners from all backgrounds can thrive.
"We are committed to being intentional and proactive," said Romanello.
You can read the county's official SWaM statement here: [henrico-eda-site-assets.s3.amazonaws.com].