• Facebook
Sunday December 21, 2014

Bob Covington Helps Small Businesses Thrive

Posted on: October 2nd, 2014

For the small, minority or female business owner who has questions: Bob Covington is the person with some of the answers.

Covington is the director of the Minority and Small Business Development Division (MSBDD) of the Mississippi Development Authority. He has been in that position since February of 2010. As the director, he is in charge of making short-term and long-term plans to assist minority business owners throughout the state.

Bob Covington – Director (MSBDD) of the Mississippi Development Authority

“[We] emphasize the minority part of the Minority and Small Business Development Division because of our mission as the state’s advocate for minorities and women owned businesses,” Covington said in an interview.

The businesses that Covington and the division provides resources and assistance to are numerous and diverse.

“These businesses range from beauty salons, convenience stores, day cares, and go across the whole range of small businesses just like the national trend data,” Covington stated.

Covington offers the owners of these small businesses several resources to assist them as they make the transition from surviving to thriving in the business world. Because Covington’s division serves the entire state, they alone can only offer limited resources; however, they often partner with other organizations and manage to offer numerous resources through those relationships.

“We piggyback with a lot of resources,” Covington stated. “We work with the Small Business Administration (SBA), Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), Planning and Development District Offices (PDD’s), and a lot of nonprofits and professional service providers (consultants) that do some of the same things we do, and from time to time help us carry out parts our mission and objectives.”

Covington believes that small minority businesses not only affect the state’s economy, but they affect the communities they serve as well.

“Typically minority businesses hire other minorities,” Covington said. “Therefore, obviously, minority business development is a key economic driver in those underserved and socially disadvantaged communities.”

Although Covington’s office provides assistance to minority and women business owners, his office is not limited to those demographics only. They also have programs to help all small business owners regardless of gender and ethnicity. The Mississippi Procurement and Technical Assistance Program (MPTAP) is a bureau of the MSDB division. It provides technical assistance to the state’s small business owners interested in procurement opportunities with federal, state and local units of government.  Local PTAC offices can be found in various cities throughout the state.

The Minority and Small Business Development Division takes pride in the fact they take a personal approach to each business owner. Although there are goals and objectives, we concentrate on the quality of each encounter as we counsel with every business owner.

“We are very passionate about what we do and have approached this a little bit differently than the typical approach,” Covington said.  In our advocacy role and we’re trying to create additional opportunities by providing information and trying to build capacity in those communities and in those businesses so that they can compete.”

Covington does this by connecting small business owners to resources and opportunities that they might not have known about.

“I found that gaining access to those opportunities [are useful] because [the businesses we serve] sometimes do not have the business infrastructure and they might not be connected with a lot of the civic groups and professional organizations where a lot of announcements or activities are first heard,” Covington said.

Covington sees his organization as an ambassador trying to provide information to the small businesses lacking membership or association with civic groups and professional organizations.

“We try to tie [small-businesses} into those resources so that they will have access to them and they can build their businesses and they can direct their resources in the right direction,” Covington said.

Covington advises people who are thinking of starting a business to do their homework. His division has people there to assist business owners with that aspect of starting a business as well.

“We have an Entrepreneur Center at MDA which serves the entire state and it has a lot of research information and a very capable staff of individuals that can do professional counseling,” Covington said.

In addition to the MDA Entrepreneur Center, Covington’s office also directs potential entrepreneurs and established business owners to others avenues where they can get assistance.

“There are numerous other resources throughout the state,” Covington continued. “Each community college typically has a small business development center (SBDC) that gives one free access to information and things such as entrepreneur’s tool kits that will help you in devising your own business plan.”

In addition to offering resources to business owners and potential business owners, Covington and his office also have training programs to empower entrepreneurs and make them competitive.

“We provide credit repair workshops, we provide training on setting up accounting systems, and we have been sponsoring other training programs in all geographical regions throughout the state about every year,” Covington said.

Although the country is emerging from a deep recession right now and has affected small business regionally, Covington thinks that now is the perfect time to prepare for the coming recovery.

“We know that the economy will eventually fully recover and there will be additional opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs,” Covington stated. “Now we are preaching that it is time to start preparing for those opportunities. Now is the time to prepare and now is the time to get your business ready for the eventual end of the recession and the recovery is in full bloom.”

Covington believes that his office is contributing to the growth of diverse businesses throughout the state. He is helping get socially disadvantaged business owners into the mainstream and that will benefit both the economy and image of Mississippi.