The demographics of small businesses are changing. Pulling data from the 2000 Census, the Minority Business Development Agency believes the majority of businesses will be minority owned or run by 2042. To celebrate the role these businesses play in today's economy, the Small Business Administration has teamed up with the Minority Business Development Agency to host National Minority Enterprise Development Week.

Held annually since 1983, the theme of this year's conference, which will take place August 26-28 in Washington D.C., is "energizing the economy with minority business enterprises." As the largest federally-sponsored conference for minority entrepreneurs and business owners, awards are given out regionally in the months leading up to the conference and then nationally throughout the weeks' festivities. The conference also offers workshops and networking opportunities to link corporations and build alliances.

"Entrepreneurs of today and tomorrow will be creating jobs, products and services that we use and depend on," says Bridget Gonzales, chief of the Minority Business Development Agency office of Legislative, Education, & Intergovernmental Affairs. "We want to raise to the attention of policy makers some of the issues or challenges confronting minority businesses" through the recognition of certain companies. 

L. Kai Yeh of International Public Works in North Charleston, South Carolina was awarded the Minority Small Business Person of the Year for the Southeast region, which encompasses eight states. As the owners and managers of an engineering and construction firm that specializes in projects such as construction expansion in cemeteries, Yeh believes his company has to compete on a standardized platform.

"The label of minority is an internal struggle because I don't want to be labeled, but rather stand on my own merits as a small business person," says Yeh. "But to me it's definitely an honor to represent minority businesses."

International Public Works will be one of the 10 businesses competing for the National Minority Small Business Person of the Year.

"We want to put front and center minority businesses," says Gonzales. "We're designating a time when the nation can spotlight minority business enterprises and their critical role in sustaining local communities and the U.S. economy."