VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) — A wave of change could be coming to Virginia Beach.
That was the focus at Thursday's Minority Business Council Conference and Expo at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. The annual event is aimed at providing outreach and networking opportunities for women and minority-owned businesses.
Business owners had the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship and showcase their businesses in front of public agencies. The overall goal of this event is for the city to award more contracts to minority-owned businesses.
This year, the conference happened during a pivotal moment.
It was held just one month after a disparity study in Virginia Beach showed the city has not provided a level playing field for businesses owned by minorities. The results of the study showed the city awarded fewer contracts to those businesses.
Bobby Dyer, the newly-elected mayor of Virginia Beach attended the event.
"It’s about inclusion. It’s about bringing people to the table, it's about networking, it's about people helping each other," said Dyer.
The city has been criticized for having a problem with cronyism, or favoritism toward certain business leaders. Dyer said change needs to happen, and it needs to come from two things...
"Bridge-building and inclusion, that’s what we’re going for," said Dyer.
Newly-elected council member Sabrina Wooten has served as a leader on the Minority Business Council. She said now could be the time to bring more opportunity for minority-owned businesses.
"I see a different leadership. We have several people who are new to city council, and I am a part of that team of change," said Wooten.
She wants to bring a different voice to the table as a new member of the city council.
"I hope that I'm bringing some awareness to the community, to let them know that Virginia Beach is open for business for everyone," said Wooten.
Dyer said this conference and other initiatives are a positive step in the right direction.
"One of the things that I ran on, and I intend to keep as a promise, is leveling the playing field and creating those opportunities," said Dyer. "As a city, we're going to be receptive and helpful and it's gonna be win-win because the more businesses that are successful, the more the city is gonna be successful."
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