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Labor and Economic Opportunity

History & Structure of the Business Enterprise Program

In 1936 Congress enacted the Randolph-Sheppard Act, thus providing opportunities for blind people in small businesses on federal properties. Three years later Michigan enacted a similar law covering certain state facilities. Michigan is proud to be among the first, if not the first, to participate in providing job opportunities for people in Michigan who are blind. Although it is unsubstantiated, the newspaper stand in the Port Huron Post Office is thought to be the first location opened officially under the Randolph Sheppard Act.

From this small beginning, many hard-working and dedicated blind men and women have served their communities, assisted in the development of this program, and maintained successful employment and active lives. Through the years, many operators/managers have participated in the development of the policies and guidelines under which this program operates. This group of operators/managers is known today as the Elected Operators Committee in Michigan. Service and commitment characterize this committee. Many members of the committee, as well as operators at large, give up many Saturdays to wrestle with demanding questions and sometimes difficult-to-find answers. From one operator, the number of blind business people in this program has grown to more than 100 today. In addition to these employment opportunities, many of the operators are now employing additional people who are blind or have other disabilities. The variety of opportunities has expanded within the BEP, and sundry stores, snack bars, vending machines, cafeterias, and highway vending centers are the types of facilities now available. The number and type of these locations continues to grow each year as staff and operators work together.

Announcements of upcoming meetings are made on the bid line: 877-483-6367. It is the responsibility of the subcommittee chairperson to see that subcommittee members are notified of such meetings. The Elected Operators Committee operates according to bylaws. The Elected Operators Committee conducts its business according to accepted standards of parliamentary procedure.

State Licensing Agency Structure 
The Business Enterprise Program is one of several programs and services within the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons, as follows:

Vocational Rehabilitation Program 
Business Services (for employers) 
Independent Living Program (age 55 and over) 
DeafBlind Services 
Youth Services
Business Enterprise Program (food service entrepreneurship)  
Braille and Talking Book Library 
BSBP Training Center 

The primary contact within the Bureau for each BEP licensed operator is the B E P Promotional Agent assigned to that operator's area of the state. The B E P Promotional Agent visits each facility or location, conducts reviews, and assists operators with business operating techniques.