Written by Diane I. Daniels – Courier Business Writer
More than 50 entrepreneurs, well known business leaders and business service providers were on hand during the recent National Association of Women Business Owners Greater Pittsburgh Chapter Breakfast with Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.
“Those that show up, go up,” said Donna M. Baxter as she conducted her first official welcome as the groups’ 2013-2015 president. “Knowledge is power and this is just one of many informative sessions NAWBO will host.”
Emphasizing the group’s theme, “Be Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise in Business Baxter” declared a regeneration and rededication of purpose for the chapter. “Our job is to advocate for and connect Women Business Owners to lines of communication with government and public policy makers.
There are huge economic development projects expected to occur in Allegheny County and women business owners need to know what’s going on and how to get involved. That is why we invited the County Executive as our first breakfast speaker. Now is the time to ask questions and to find out how your business can participate in the upcoming development.”
The County Executive pointed out that this is a good time to be in Pittsburgh for young people and women. “Choices are present that weren’t around before like in energy, IT, manufacturing, education, medical and life sciences. It is my administrations responsibility to assure that opportunities continue to present themselves.” He also said that within the two years he has been in office that women make up 53 percent of appointments on County boards and authorities and positions within his administration including chief of staff, the communications director and most recently the health department director. He did confess that one of his biggest concerns is getting women elected to political offices.
Other good news about the region, he pointed out is that the population is growing and that jobs are being created in Allegheny County and western Pennsylvania. The challenge is to fill the positions and to assure that people have the skill set for the job openings. He also considers arts and culture as an asset to the city as well as the airport.
Fitzgerald committed to continue to work with groups like NAWBO and the Chambers to assist them in their quest to develop stable business opportunities in the region as well as strengthening the minority situation in the region by placing more African-Americans on boards and authorities and making Pittsburgh a place for African-Americans to succeed.
The breakfast was also held in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988 in the United States; H.R. 5050. “The legislation ushered in a transformation in women’s enterprise development by addressing key barriers that had been impeding entrepreneurism and business growth by women,” according to Billie Dragoo, chair and interim CEO of NAWBO national. She said, as a result of the legislation, women entrepreneurs were provided with long overdue access to capital, education and technical assistance offered in a woman’s voice, access to federal policymaking circles, and the undercounting of the number and economic contributions of women-owned businesses were finally addressed.
The four principles of the Act included: extending the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to include business credit; launching a “demonstration project” that resulted in the establishment of women’s business centers across the country; establishing the National Women’s Business Council, and directing the Census Bureau to embrace all women-owned firms in its quinquennial business census.
The vision and mission of NAWBO is to propel women entrepreneurs into economic, social and political spheres of power worldwide by: strengthening the wealth creating capacity of our members and promoting economic development within the entrepreneurial community; creating innovative and effective change in the business culture; building strategic alliances, coalitions and affiliations; and transforming public policy and influencing opinion makers.
Pleased with the outcome of the breakfast, Baxter says that as the fifth oldest NAWBO chapter in the country and with over 300 members that it is important for business owners in the region to attend events that introduce them to policy makers such as the County Executive. “Our goal should be to find out what our policy makers know and their reasoning behind the decisions they make in government.
“With all the organizations in the Pittsburgh area geared toward assisting women business owners it is important for us all to work as a unified team. Leadership and voters alike need to see a renewed energy and feel the strength in us working together. With NAWBO existing as a national organization and with its lobbing clout women can continue what was started 25 years ago and become leaders of the economic recovery by starting more businesses and growing them faster.”