Team Effort

Businesses unite to fight the millennium glitch.

Last year, while experts nationwide continued to scramble to fix outdated computer systems that can't recognize dates after December 31, 1999, minority business advocate Mannie Lopes decided that he, too, wanted in on the action.

So he created Year 2000 Alliance LLC in Laurel, Maryland. The company now plays a critical role in the Y2K conversion operation--and it promotes women- and minority-owned high-tech and telecommunications businesses in the process.

The alliance helps its members land private-sector and government contracts. With help from firms like Kym Kennedy's The Computer Training Company in Richmond, Virginia, alliance members learn to solve Y2K problems for other companies. To date, the Alliance's women-owned ventures have already garnered contracts totaling $24 million. Lopes expects women- and minority-owned businesses' contract work to reach $350 million by December 31, 2001.

Lopes' efforts date back to the 1996 White House Conference on Small Business, where he was a delegate and the national coordinator for minority firms. "We bonded at the conference, and I told [the minority- and women-owned firms] I was going to keep that alliance together forever," he remembers.

Today, close to 200 firms are Alliance members. "The crème-de-la-crème of women- and minority-owned tech firms are in this Alliance, and the ones I don't have are joining as we speak," Lopes says.

For now, projections say the Y2K problem will be resolved by 2002, but Lopes believes 2005 is a more realistic date. The alliance should stay strong beyond that time, though, as Lopes plans to focus on other opportunities in the high-tech field. To find out whether or not you qualify to become a Year 2000 Alliance member, call (301) 622-5460.

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This article was originally published in the September 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Team Effort.

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