Commerce Lexington launches minority business program

As part of the launch of its new Minority Business Accelerator, Commerce Lexington on Wednesday announced a $2.4 million contract involving one of the program's participants as part of a project to build five dorms at the University of Kentucky.

The Lexington sourcing firm National Diversity Solutions — which specializes in "ensuring competitive participation from qualified diverse businesses," according to its website — will work on the project with Messer Construction.

"The last three to four years, there's been an effort to try to increase opportunities for women and minorities. It is great to see our vision come to life," National Diversity Solutions CEO D. McGinnis Mitchell told a news conference Wednesday at Commerce Lexington's offices downtown.

Modeled after similar programs in other cities, the Minority Business Accelerator, or MBA, was established to support growing minority business and companies in making connections that help all sides and promote success, said Tyrone Tyra, vice president for community and minority business development at Commerce Lexington.

It all started when Tyra saw reports about how well Cincinnati's MBA program was doing.

"It was an example of how large entities and strong minority business were ready to come together and do well in the community and in the economy," he said.

A delegation that included a group of business owners and Commerce Lexington representatives traveled to Cincinnati to learn more about the program, Tyra said.

Commerce Lexington's board approved Lexington's MBA program last fall.

The delegation then looked for qualified minority businesses.

Tyra said, "We wanted certified minority-owned businesses with a good client base, $250,000 in annual business, to become members of Commerce Lexington, and fit our strategic targets."

He said, "I feel good about the focus of the program and future minority businesses in Lexington and Central Kentucky."