A Question of Connections

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Donald Delandro has seen the ups and downs in his 10 years with Affordable Supply Co., a janitorial supply company he founded in Washington, D.C.'s northeast sector.

For a period, while holding one large two-year contract, the company became comfortably profitable and provided full-time jobs for 10.

Today, since the loss of that contract, the company has shrunk back down to just Mr. Delandro and two other employees. And Delandro is struggling to regroup.

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But he talks optimistically about the help offered by the Community Business Partnership Project, a program launched by the Greater Washington Board of Trade in 1996.

The program seeks to pair inner-city businesses with larger suburban companies that can both offer technical assistance and help establish contacts outside the inner city.

Access to other markets is exactly what Delandro, an African-American, says he needs.

"I don't have those kind of affiliations in the white world, and there's not that much of a black business community. This could give me a chance to develop those affiliations."

What Delandro thinks would help most, however, would be a program to direct federal contracts toward inner-city businesses.

"One big federal contract," he says. "You wouldn't believe the impact something like that could have."

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