Now in 31st year, trade show and luncheon features awards presentations, panel discussion
It is May, and the trees and tulips are in bloom. The sunny weather keeps teasing us, the grass is growing, and that means it is time for Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs (OAME) Annual Trade Show and Luncheon.
This is the 31st year of the OAME event, and we are recognizing the “Next Generation of Business” with 133 trade show booths and a luncheon program featuring young and upcoming area business leaders. The luncheon panel this year is a diverse group of young entrepreneurs who are leading their successful companies. These leaders have come together to share successes and challenges they’ve experienced on their entrepreneurial journeys. Our thanks go out to Diana Delgado, CEO of ICE Corporation; Alando Simpson, CEO of COR (City of Roses materials management); Summer Gorder, owner and president of ecoReal; and Jan Mason, director of marketing and communication at Mackenzie for serving as panel members and to Ozzie Gonzalez of Howard S. Wright for serving as moderator.
Another highlight of the luncheon program focuses on recognizing outstanding businesses, both public and private, and individuals for their work and support of OAME’s mission to promote and develop minority entrepreneurship and economic development in Oregon and Southwest Washington. OAME works in partnerships between minorities, entrepreneurs, education, government and established corporate businesses. Our philosophy is “Everybody’s In, Nobody’s Out,” meaning we all depend on each other and must work together to be successful in life and in business.
As our partnership with the community grows, this year we are recognizing five outstanding partners that have “walked the walk” with OAME in support and growth of our mission. Those partners are being highlighted here in Opportunity Magazine.
Being recognized with the MWESBSDV Business of the Year are two companies, Alarm Tracks Inc. and Ace Event Security, both owned and operated by Harold and Cheryll Brookins, who have been with OAME since the earliest days of our existence.
Next is the Corporate Award of the Year, presented to Columbia Bank, a newer but strong advocate with OAME for support of new diverse small emerging businesses.
Portland Community College is being recognized with the Public Agency of the Year for their fantastic support of all of the OAME services and the Youth program.
With the Construction Company of the Year Award, we are recognizing a small boutique company, Portland Commercial Construction, which has grown to be a fantastic company with good people, and has helped OAME achieve our goals throughout the year. The company also is a continued supporter of our Summer Youth Programming.
Finally, this year’s Chairman’s Award recognizes the fantastic advocacy and work of Sen. Lew Frederick in the state’s often-contentious legislative sessions, supporting and promoting all MWESBSDV businesses in the state.
We hope you will look at the important work OAME is doing, and if think you might be interested in joining us, we invite you to find out more about the organization. Please feel free to come and see what we are all about and network with other members and guests of the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs.
Public Agency of the Year | PORTLAND COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Mark Mitsui has worked to promote diversity, equity and inclusion from Washington, D.C. – where he was charged with advancing President Barack Obama’s community college agenda through partnerships with numerous federal agencies and national stakeholders – to Washington state, where he served as president of North Seattle College.
When the opportunity to join Portland Community College arose, he knew it was a good fit.
“I knew they had a strong social justice emphasis and their strategic plan had a critical integrated theory embedded in it. One of the aspirations was to have a world-renowned reputation for diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Mitsui, who became PCC’s president in 2016.
He noted that the commitment to diversity is also reflected in PCC’s mission statement and the college has a dedicated Office of Equity and Inclusion. “All of those are indices of a strong value around equity, diversity and inclusion.”
PCC’s commitment to diversity and inclusion extends to the companies that do construction on its four campuses. Its staff in the Planning and Capital Construction and Facilities Management Services offices reach out to contractors who are minorities, women, emerging small businesses, and service-disabled veterans (MWESBSDV) to let them know about work opportunities. PCC strives to hire at least 20% MWESBSDV subcontractors for its projects and has continually exceeded that goal.
In March, PCC hosted a free outreach event for MWESBSDV contractors at its Southeast Portland campus. About 60 attendees were able to meet face-to-face with industry executives in a five-minute “speed-dating” format. The event provided a forum to network, and representatives from several financial institutions were on hand to answer questions.
In addition, attendees were able to learn about the many projects PCC is planning under the bond measure approved by voters in 2017. They include some new construction, such as Cascade Campus’ new public safety building, as well as a list of repairs, renovations and safety improvements and replacing outdated technology and equipment. Another outreach event was held April 23.
PCC, which sponsors OAME’s Annual Trade Show & Luncheon, also is an OAME member and has a representative at each of its meetings. Mitsui said the longtime relationship between the two organizations has been mutually beneficial.
“We’re very appreciative of the recognition and the award, and we appreciate the work Sam Brooks and OAME have done in communities of color within the region for many years,” he said.
Corporate Award of the Year | COLUMBIA BANK
Throughout his career with Albina Community Bank, the Small Business Administration and, now, as Senior Vice President and SBA Manager for Columbia Bank, Scott Bossom saw many situations where small businesses owned by women and minorities needed some financial support but were turned away by banks.
Rather than simply declining a loan application, Bossom would try to connect these entrepreneurs with resources such as OAME because of its microloan program. Several years ago, he developed a partnership with Sam Brooks, founder and board chairman, and President Jorge Guerra. The collaborative effort to provide financial support for underserved businesses led Bossom and Columbia Bank to initiate a small line of credit for up to $25,000.
“Banks won’t make small deals because they don’t make any money on them. In that bucket you end up catching a lot of women- and minority-owned business that don’t need a lot of money and the banks won’t have anything to do with them,” he said, noting there are no fees charged with Columbia Bank’s small line of credit. “But it fills a gap that we had and can really help a small business.”
In 2017, Columbia Bank provided 67 loans worth $26 million. Last year, those numbers jumped to 283 loans for $46 million. Of those, 193 were small express lines of credit for $5,000 to $25,000. Among the success stories was a single mother who had an opportunity to buy a coffee stand in Eugene.
“Those are the deals that you’re not going to make a lot of money on them, but it’s the idea of being able to change somebody’s life,” Bossom said.
As part of his services, Bossom works with small businesses to identify the best way to proceed with applying for funding and how to be prepared if they are not quite ready to apply.
“There could be a whole host of reasons they aren’t ready and we’re doing a lot to help them identify the next best step,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you are in your life cycle, we’re going to sit down and talk to you and help you with those next steps.”
Bossom said his overarching goal is to change the perception many small business owners have of banks as behemoth institutions that only offer rejection. The recognition from OAME furthers that goal. “I’m honored to have our company receive this (award),” Bossom said.
Chairman’s Award | OREGON STATE SENATOR LEW FREDERIC
From educating people about OAME as a reporter to attending meetings as a member, Oregon State Sen. Lew Frederick has been involved with the organization in one fashion or another since it was founded in 1987.
“As a reporter I found it to be a good group to go see what the issues were and that business groups of various ethnicities were working together to solve issues,” said Frederick, who worked at KGW-Channel 8 for 17 years.
He continued to attend OAME meetings while working as the director of public information for Portland Public Schools for 13 years, and has watched the organization steadily grow its membership while increasing the networking and educational opportunities it provides.
“I think we’re seeing a range of different cultures, demographics, and people stepping forward as well, and a real sense that people need to truly do that kind of networking that everybody talks about but is not necessarily done well,” Frederick said.
His longtime support of OAME and his commitment to service are among the reasons Sam Brooks, the organization’s founder and board chair, selected Frederick to receive the Chairman’s Award. The award honors a member who best exemplifies OAME’s mission and membership.
Frederick’s dedication to making people’s lives better took root in his experiences as a youth during the Civil Rights Movement. Born in Pullman, Washington, he grew up in the south, Midwest and New England. Frederick went to college at Earlham College in Indiana, is a PhD candidate at Portland State University, and has studied at MIT, Morehouse and the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratories.
With a background in biology, theater and political science, his professional life has included working as a teacher, actor and ranch-hand. Frederick first took office in October 2009 and in 2016 was elected to Senate District 22, representing most of North and Northeast Portland. His legislative focus is on justice in public safety, education and economic security.
Frederick serves on the Joint Ways and Means Committee, the Joint Committee on Student Success, the Joint Committee on Transportation and the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources. In addition, he co-chairs the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Education.
In addition to his legislative work, Frederick is a strategic communications consultant, focusing on strategic planning, community relations, science/technical issues and media crisis communications. He also serves on the board for the Regional Arts and Culture Council.
Construction Company of the Year | PORTLAND COMMERCIAL CONSTRUCTION
Kurt McLaughlin started working as a carpenter during high school and has seen his share of toxic work environments. When he started Portland Commercial Construction in 2016, his business model centered around diversity and inclusion.
“It’s just about company culture. We don’t allow egos and we’re a pretty small general contractor, so we need a lot of help from smaller subs,” he said. “Especially right now when it’s really busy, it’s easy to partner with the smaller subcontractors. They tend to be diverse and they are team players. They’re not interested in taking all the glory.”
The Portland-based company specializes in dental and medical construction, construction management, building maintenance, tenant improvements and ground-up construction. McLaughlin said the projects allow he and his team to serve as mentors for others.
“We enjoy the projects so it’s not really about what we’re doing, but more about who we are working with and what we’re accomplishing,” he said, adding the partnerships he has formed with smaller subcontractors are based on mutual respect and collaboration.
“Other general contractors say, ‘We invite them but they never come.’ My comment back to them is, ‘What does that tell you and what are you doing wrong?’” McLaughlin said. “There are a lot of barriers for smaller contractors and instead of the mentality being, ‘We have the work and you should come to us,’ the mentality should be, ‘Let’s team up and work together to get this done.’”
Portland Commercial Construction employs 15 people, with Angela Boyd as its project consultant. “I really enjoy the business development portion and working with the subcontractors, expanding our business and helping our subcontractors grow their businesses,” she said.
McLaughlin and Boyd agreed that OAME’s motto, “Everybody’s In, Nobody’s Out,” is inspiring and essential to the business community’s success.
“It is actually very honorable to get that recognition from OAME that they recognize our efforts,” Boyd said. “We’re a small company but we really try to put our effort into supporting small businesses and sitting at the table to help provide opportunities.”
McLaughlin noted that OAME’s award is affirmation that his company is accomplishing what he set out to do when he started it.
“OAME is our favorite community. We love what they stand for and we feel like they really mean what they say and have put their money where their mouth is with the microlending program and representing everybody. Nobody is out.”
MWESBSDV | ALARM TRACKS INC. AND ACE EVENT SERVICES
Most people consider golfi ng and gardening as perfect ways to spend their retirement days. Harold and Cheryll Brookins aren’t most people.
After each working for the phone company for more than 30 years, the couple celebrated their retirements in 1996 by starting Alarm Tracks, a low-voltage electrical contracting company that does installation and repair for alarm systems, security cameras and other systems for residential and commercial clients.
In 2007, they purchased Ace Event Services, which provides security for events. A division of that company, Ace Private Security, provides security services for construction and retail clients. The couple’s three daughters – Laquanna Peoples, Courtney Brookins and AbaiEscia Young – are involved in day-to-day operations with Ace. They’ll eventually also become involved with Alarm Tracks, with a plan to one day take over the two companies.
Both Ace and Alarm Tracks hit rough patches during the Great Recession, but Cheryll and Harold say they were able to keep the doors open by working together. Even during those tough years, they never missed a paycheck for their employees.
“It was hard, but we made it through it,” Cheryll said. She and Harold also attribute their business survival to their involvement with OAME, which dates back to 1996 when they rented a small office from the organization. Over the years, they have been able to access microloans through OAME and graduated from the organization’s mentor program. They’ve also have received valuable advice from OAME founder Sam Brooks.
That advice has helped the couple’s companies reestablish firm footing since the recession ended. Alarm Tracks now has 220 customers and its annual revenue is more than $100,000. Ace, meanwhile, has grown from a value of $60,000 to a worth between $600,000 and $800,000, and Cheryll thinks it has the potential to increase even more in value.
“We have worked really hard together to make both companies viable,” she said. “I’d like our daughters to continue it. I believe (Ace) could be a million-dollar company.”
The couple’s impact has spread beyond the business world into the general community. Ace and Alarm Tracks have regularly supported Special Olympics. Ace also has sponsored children every year, working with the United Methodist Church to send them to summer camp. Since 1990, the company has made it possible for more than 700 children to attend camp.
“A lot of people call Cheryll the camp lady,” Harold said. “We’ve been sending children to camp for so long that now some of them are camp counselors.”