ACAA Equity Department’s recent DBE Diversity Outreach Event, hosted at Allegheny County Airport on July 13, 2023, featured a diverse group of local entrepreneurs and gave small business owners a chance to learn and connect with other Pittsburgh-area businesses. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

Airport Hosts Showcase for Minority Business Owners

When Aaron Reed started his construction supply business in 2014, he spent years working to make just $50,000 in sales.

Last year, his company produced $23 million in revenue.

Reed’s company, Reed Construction, is a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, or DBE, a governmental designation intended to help fight discrimination against women and racial minorities in various industries. Inclusion in state and federal DBE programs provides opportunities for minorities who own at least 51 percent of a small business.

His success story has inspired small business owners across the Pittsburgh region, many of whom recently gathered at the Allegheny County Airport Authority’s most recent DBE Diversity Outreach Event.

Hosted by ACAA’s Equity Department, the event gave a diverse group of local entrepreneurs a chance to learn from and connect with other Pittsburgh-area businesses.

Reed credited networking events like this one as a primary factor in his success.

“The more you show up, the less you give people a chance of forgetting who you are,” he said.

Other speakers, including Pittsburgh Regional Transit DBE Program Manager Sue Broadus and Juan Garrett, executive director of The Riverside Center for Innovation, shared tips on how to help grow a business.

“The ACAA is committed to breaking down century-long barriers that have previously prevented minority groups from succeeding in the workplace,” said Virginia Culbreath, ACAA’s DBE Program Administrator.

“We’re trying to reach out to every aspect of diversity,” she said. “It’s really nice when you can walk in a room, and you can see the diversity—like today.”

Local events that provide people with equal access to opportunity allow small business owners to explore all the work options in the Pittsburgh region. Because of events like these, entrepreneurs can expand their businesses and branch out into different fields.

“The airport has plenty of jobs that go beyond aviation, and for many types of businesses,” added Jennifer Clossin-Kerr, Manager of DBE Compliance.

“Small businesses need to know that there are opportunities,” Clossin-Kerr said. “We have projects out here that might be a $60,000 project, especially here in AGC. They can easily work that. It doesn’t always have to be the big guys.”

One of those small business owners, Karen Denton of KSC Commercial Cleaning Services, has been in the cleaning business for 13 years. She’s been able to grow her business because of events that promote diverse voices.

“It’s opening up doors for us minorities,” Denton said. “We get to get in rooms and sit at tables that we originally wouldn’t be able to sit at.”

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