Georgia MBDA Business Center Connects MBEs Regionally with Southeast Connections


When the Georgia Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Centers first launched the Specialty Trades Aiming at the Right Targets (START) to Build program in 2018, their team envisioned a robust, regional program that provided client Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) firms in construction with contracts, connections, and opportunities.

In its three years of operation, the program has generated over $15 million in awarded contracts and connected MBEs with general contractors to create long-term, sustainable relationships. Corporations such as Microsoft, Skanska, Brasfield & Gorrie, Turner Construction, and Leapley Construction have participated in the program and connected MBEs with opportunities in their project pipelines. In the past month, staff of the Georgia MBDA Centers took a large step in scaling START to Build to a regional level, as they led a collaboration with five MBDA Centers to launch a five-day matchmaking event with Southeast Connections (SEC), a subsidiary of Artera.

During the week-long event, MBE contractors were given 15 minutes to pitch their services to Valerie Ballew, SEC’s director of procurement, providing an opportunity for SEC to increase its contractor supplier base with diverse companies. “I think that this initial matchmaking event was a success,” said Valerie Ballew, “I’d like to thank the MBDA Centers, for their collaboration. I look forward to participating in future matchmaking events and establishing connections with more MBE firms.”

What was unique about this event in particular was its broad reach. Not only did it provide opportunities to clients from the Georgia MBDA Centers, but it also provided opportunities to Centers and their clients throughout the Southeast.

“It’s one of our more ambitious teaming arrangements in our national network to date,” explained Donna M. Ennis, C.P.F., director of the Georgia MBDA Business and Advanced Manufacturing Centers at Georgia Tech. “We collaborated with MBDA centers in Columbia, Miami, Memphis, Orlando, and Washington, DC to provide opportunities to 37 MBEs.”

Thus far, reviews have been favorable. “Our matchmaking connection with Southeast Connections was very informative and fruitful,” reported Sondi Henry, marketing coordinator with UJAMAA Construction. “We’ve made a connection that we believe will greatly benefit both companies. We truly appreciate the Georgia MBDA Centers for putting this virtual event together.”

UJAMAA’s sentiments were echoed by Josef Powell, the CEO and president of Orlando-based parts distributor Mapex USA, who found the event to be “very useful, productive, and relevant for our business.”

“We look forward to future events like this, as well as following up with SEC to create a truly mutually beneficial relationship going forward,” he reported.

Likewise, Laurita Jackson of Memphis-based Enfinity Supply was also enthusiastic about the matchmaking event, calling it “a great opportunity for us to demonstrate our ability to provide a value-added solution for SEC.”

“Our meeting with Valerie was very focused, resulting in a clear understanding of SEC, potential opportunities and a definitive timeline for follow-up,” she added, “We look forward to developing a mutually beneficial relationship with Southeast Connections.”

“It’s opportunities like these that open doors and relationships for MBEs,” said Ennis. START to Build helps to foster long-term relationships for both subcontractors and primes.  Now that we have completed this first regional effort, we have a blueprint for going national.”