Former Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke speaks at the National Minority Enterprise Development Week Conference.The Minority Business Development Agency, an arm of the Commerce Department, plans to shut down all five of its regional offices this year, according to the agency's fiscal 2013 budget request. (Commerce Department)
The Minority Business Development Agency, an arm of the Commerce Department, plans to shut down all five of its regional offices by early next year and reassign their staffs to Washington, according to a spokeswoman and the agency's fiscal 2013 budget request.
About one-quarter of the 100-person workforce will be affected, and the agency has already requested permission from the Office of Personnel Management to offer early-retirement and buyout incentives, spokeswoman Bridget Gonzales said Monday.
The proposed closings will help the agency reduce its budget from $30.3 million this year to $28.7 million next year — about a 5 percent cut — the budget request says. The five offices are in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New York and San Francisco.
Four of the five are scheduled to close by Sept. 30, Gonzales said, with San Francisco to follow by March 2013.
The agency's mission is to help minority companies grow. The broader goal of the office closings, Gonzales said, is to channel more resources to the agency's independently run business centers that work directly with minority entrepreneurs.
The closings are part of a governmentwide trend as agencies seek to reduce overhead costs and take advantage of advances in information technology.
Since the beginning of fiscal 2011, for example, the Social Security Administration has consolidated more than a dozen field offices and has also stopped using about 140 "remote hearing sites" such as public libraries, rented hotel conference rooms, and other facilities, spokeswoman Kia Green said in an email last month.
The Census Bureau is closing half of its dozen regional offices, and the Labor Department last week announced plans to trim its national footprint, also as part of its 2013 budget request.