In spite of the presence and growth of minority- and women-owned business firms, we know that both business types continue to face barriers, some of them rooted in a lack of information and/or understanding, in accessing public procurement opportunities. In recognition of these challenges, the Office of Access and Opportunity decided to put together the "Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Summit, Increasing Access and Opportunity for Minority and Women Business Growth." This event, held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, was designed to provide an opportunity for minority and women entrepreneurs from all across the Commonwealth and from all sectors of the economy to engage, through various panels, in open discussions with representatives of state government, federal government, quasi-public and non-profit agencies.
This was the first year for the summit. Over 200 business representatives attended the event. In addition, a number of business groups that work with state, federal and quasi-public agencies also participated.
The summit was designed as a vehicle to provide access to opportunity by providing access to information across a spectrum of topics, each of which can be an important link between the business community and the agencies involved. While many businesses face similar challenges, minority and women entrepreneurs face their own set of barriers. The summit was focused to provide information in response to the unique circumstances that confront minority and women businesses - access to information about federal, state and quasi-public contracting opportunities, access to capital, surety and other guaranty products, access to technical assistance, business development services and advocacy organizations, and access to small business services in recognition that although the adjectives of "minority" and "women" are used, at the end of the day, each of the businesses represented is a small business were among the panels organized and the issues discussed during the summit. Additionally, the summit provided an excellent venue to roll-out and make known the new Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Office, the consolidated agency that replaces the State Office of Minority and Women Business Assistance and the Affirmative Market Program. Finally, the summit featured a town hall meeting which had two purposes: (1) a forum to engage in additional dialogue regarding issues that came up earlier in the day and the identification of specific barriers that could be mitigated by specific public policy responses.
With the vital role minority and women businesses play in today's state (and national) economy - and the tremendous growth they are experiencing in business ownership - the event became a critical tool for facilitating the sharing of information between minority and women business owners and representatives of the public agencies present. Given their increasing importance, minority and women entrepreneurs will continue to represent an increasing share of economic leadership in the Commonwealth.
 Women-owned Firms, 2002: U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, United States Census Bureau
 The 2002 State of Minority Business: Massachusetts; Minority Business Development Agency