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HOUSTON Airport System t o

d is p lay

Spring 2017

t h e

Houston Aviation Director Mario C. Diaz



Women Who

move the nation

Also in this issue Trump Promises $1 Trillion in Infrastructure Spending Connico’s Dream Comes True Jackson Municipal Airport Authority Plans DBE Success

mbda report confirms

Need for

DBE Programs // Spring 2017



California High Speed Rail, Central California Anticipated completion date: 2019

California Rail Builders, in a consortium with Griffith Company, has signed an agreement to design and build a 22-mile section of high-speed railway line in the Central Valley for $442 million. The line, between Wasco and Shafter, forms part of the 100-mile central section of the line between Fresno and Bakersfield, connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco.

North Perimeter Contractors, LLC

Interstate 285/SR 400, Atlanta, Georgia Anticipated completion date: 2020 North Perimeter Contractors (NPC) was selected by the Georgia DOT and the State Road and Tollway Authority to design, build and partly finance the I-285/SR 400 project. The contract sum is approximately $457 million. NPC will rebuild the I-285/SR 400 interchange and make upgrades to the adjoining I-285 and SR 400 corridors.

Sugar Creek Contractors, LLC

Interstate 77, Charlotte, North Carolina Anticipated completion date: 2018 Sugar Creek Contractors heads up the consortium along with English Construction for the design and build of the I-77 highway. The approximately $444 million project is a public-private partnership between North Carolina DOT and the developer to finance, develop, design, construct, operate and maintain the project. SCC will construct 26 miles of dedicated additional Express Lanes that will operate adjacent to the existing general purpose lanes as well as other improvements from I-77/I-277 in Uptown area of Charlotte to Mooresville.


Barrier/Guardrail (Temporary/Permanent), Bridge Construction, Aggregate/ Material Suppliers, Erosion Control/SWPPP, Concrete Structures, Drainage, MSE Walls/Panels, Noise Walls, Miscellaneous Design Services, Misc. Utilities Services, Traffic Control, Drilling (Sign Posts/Caissons), Utility Relocation Design**, Rebar (Installation & Purchase), Flatwork, Electrical Work, Demolition- Exterior, Grading/ Earthworks, ITS and TCS Civil Work, Landscaping, Materials Testing, Lighting, Saw Cutting/Sealing, Roadway Striping, Steel Stud Walls, Utility Relocation**, Recycling/Milling (Asphalt/Concrete), Asphalt Paving, Excavation, Environmental Services, Geotechnical, Fencing, Miscellaneous Concrete Work, Technical Design Engineering, Signage, Surveying, Ready-mix Concrete, Traffic Supplies/Signals, Trucking/Hauling *PLEASE NOTE: This list is not inclusive of all available opportunities, but a sampling of potential services that could be available on a project. The opportunities available on specific projects may vary depending on the type, scope and size of the project. ** Additional pre-qualifications may be required for these services.

Vendors and contractors interested in doing business with Ferrovial Agroman or on these projects, please register your firm with us at: FrontEnd/StartRegistry.asp For additional questions and details, contact us at:

Metro is committed to small business success. To date, Metro has spent over $1 billion with SBE/DBEs. Learn how you can benefit at






08 Houston Airport System

28 Aviation

13 COMTO Celebrates Women

32 Transit

Houston Airport System to Display the Magic of Flight COMTO Celebrates Women Who Move the Nation

16 The Need for DBE Programs

National Disparity Study Report Confirms Need for DBE Programs

DBE Power Players 20 Connico Inc.

CEO Connie Gowder’s Success is a Dream Come True

24 Jackson Municipal Airport Authority JMAA Five-Year Strategic Plan Includes Creating DBE Opportunities

AMAC Lobbies Congress Members to Move Legislative Agenda Charlotte Streetcar Project Delivers Economic Opportunity

35 Civil/Highway

The Realities of Trump’s Infrastructure Plan

Business Development 38 Inner City Capital Connections

ICCC Accepting Applications for the 2017 Program

41 When Crisis Strikes

A Guide for Small Businesses

43 Just Ask Iris

A Story on Mentoring – A Naomi-Ruth Love

“That’s The Way We’ve Always Done It” Just Doesn’t Get It Anymore. We get that.

20 Spring 2017 Volume 5, Issue 1 Publisher: Shelton A. Russell

Does Your PR Effort Need A Fresh Approach? We’ve Got Solutions.


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TweetPublish Publish EmailConnect ConnecB Post Tweet Publish Email Connect Blog Link Pin Hangout Share—REPEAT—Post Post Tweet Email Editorial: Iris Ann Cooper V.K. Fields Jordan Taylor Philip D. Russell Shelton A. Russell Headquarters: 514 Daniels Street, #186 Raleigh, NC 27605

Website: About American DBE Magazine: American DBE Magazine is the premier industry resource for individuals and stakeholders who work within the federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprises program administration. American DBE Magazine is published quarterly and distributed in all 50 states — plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands — to DBE program administrators, business owners, and professionals in the Aviation, Highway Construction and Public Transit industries.

Subscriptions: American DBE Magazine is published quarterly in Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer editions. The annual subscription rate is $19.99 including online editions, special industry reports, and four issues; single copy list price is $5.99 plus postage originating from Raleigh, North Carolina. Advertising Sales: | (919) 741-5233 (Office)


From the Publisher

Keep On Keeping-On


t is a time of uncertainty for the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program. The 2016 election of President Donald Trump is bringing significant changes in Washington, D.C. and across the country, and it remains to be seen how these changes will impact small businesses and companies owned by minorities and women.

On one hand, President Trump plans to pass legislation to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure to repair and modernize our national highways, bridges, airports and rail systems. The potential for this type of spending offers good news to small and disadvantaged firms in the transportation industry, who hope the additional spending will create opportunities for their business. On the other hand, Trump’s initial “skinny” budget reduces transportation funding, and details of where the funding will come from for the $1 trillion investment have been slow to develop. These two realities should give DBEs good reason to be cautious about what will happen in the future. Additionally, President Trump hopes to pass one of the biggest tax cuts in the history of our nation, cutting taxes on both businesses and individuals. Again, this could be good news for small and disadvantaged firms. However, as our country just dropped the “Mother of All Bombs” in Syria, and we still need that elusive $1 trillion for infrastructure investment, it’s probably a good idea for DBEs to wait and see what happens next.


// Spring 2017

Several DBEs and DBE Program administrators have asked about my plans with this new administration in place. My response is to “keep on keeping-on.” While there are business threats that must be considered, like potential changes to the Supreme Court that could impact affirmative action legislation, we still must keep moving forward. So the order of the day is to “keep on keeping-on,” by staying focused on building successful companies and advocating for greater opportunities for DBEs. Let’s all make a commitment to stay encouraged, knowing that regardless of what happens over the next few months or years, it cannot and will not undo the progress that already has been made by minorities and women in this country. Best wishes, Shelton A. Russell, Publisher American DBE Magazine

Subscribe to IN-DEPTH INDUSTRY COVERAGE Subscribe Online at Call Today! (919) 741-5233

W W W. A M E R I C A N D B E . C O M

PROUD TO GIVE BUSINESSES A LIFT CATS is proud to provide opportunities for businesses to create local jobs through the advancement of transit projects. CATS also seeks to create an environment that gives small and socially or economically challenged local businesses the opportunity to compete for publicly funded contracts by participating in the Small Business Opportunity (SBO) and the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Programs. On the LYNX Blue Line project, for example, CATS spent $42.9 million with 38 DBE firms to build the new light rail system. As the major provider of public transportation to Charlotte and the surrounding region, CATS relies on the communities we serve to build and operate the service every day. By working together on these new opportunities, we can all keep our communities moving in the right direction. For more information, visit

// Spring 2017



Houston Airport System to Display

the Magic of Flight By American DBE Staff

Houston Airport System Aviation Director Mario Diaz champions DBE inclusion and welcomes the 2017 AMAC Business Diversity Conference to Houston to witness the ‘Magic of Flight’.


ven in a place like Houston, Texas, the fourth largest city in the country—with the most ethnically diverse population in the the nation, and more than 2.3 million people; ensuring that Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) and Airport Concession Disadvantaged Enterprises (ACDBEs) are on a level playing field still requires focused efforts on promoting business diversity. As host of the Airport Minority Advisory Council’s 2017 Airport Business Diversity Conference in June 2017, the Houston Airport System is a model for reaching that standard; and a concerted focus on business diversity makes both Houston and its airports a prime example of why doing so is valuable and important. “The Houston Airport System is an economic engine for a city that embraces diversity, both in its growing population and in the kind of opportunities its diverse economy makes available,” said Houston Aviation Director Mario C. Diaz, who has been a leader in the airport industry in promoting diversity and inclusion. “The AMAC conference celebrates that inclusive philosophy and mirrors the goals of our Office of Business Opportunity program,” Diaz said. “The conference encourages airports


// Spring 2017

Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) plans $4 billion in improvement projects over the next decade. Plans include makeovers for four terminals—including a new $1.5 billion Mickey Leland International Terminal.

across the nation to take a proactive approach to doing business in an open and fair environment. It also addresses the diverse needs of those attending with speakers of the highest quality and useful presentations that support the important goals of AMAC.” The 2017 conference theme is “The Magic of Flight” and will celebrate the amazing changes and opportunities that have come from the invention of air travel. The conference takes place June 16-20, 2017, at the Marriott Marquis Houston. Highlighted events include the annual Bill Walker Golf Tournament and a trade expo featuring major airports and airport industry businesses seeking business partners. Rhonda Arnold, the Community Affairs Officer for the Houston Airport System, said, “We want to use the upcoming AMAC Business Diversity Conference to demonstrate what can be accomplished by the Disadvantaged Business Enterprises and Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprises community when given great opportunities to do business with an organization that is serious about giving them a chance to succeed.” Arnold serves as the airport system’s representative on the AMAC board, is the Southwest Regional Director for AMAC, and chaired the committee for this year’s conference. The city-owned system boasts three airports: George Bush Intercontinental Airport, the largest commercial facility and a growing hub in international travel; William P. Hobby Airport, the oldest commercial airport in the city, which recently expanded and now offers international service to a variety of destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean; and Ellington Airport, a general aviation facility that serves a wide variety of private and military clients that also became the 10th licensed commercial spaceport in the United States in 2015. Houston represents one of North America’s largest public airport systems and positions the region as the international passenger and cargo gateway to the southern-central United States and a primary gateway to Latin America. The system is growing at a steady pace, both in terms of increasing numbers

Jason McLemore, Deputy Assistant Director, Office of Business Opportunity welcomes participants to the HAS Industry Day Program in December 2016.

of domestic and international routes served by a wide selection of domestic and international air carriers, and is expanding facilities to meet the demands of nearly 55 million passengers per year. In 2016, approximately 11.5 million of those passengers were international travelers. Thanks to successful public-private partnerships with air carrier partners like United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, billions of dollars in projects have been executed, are being executed, and are in the early stages for future expansion. These projects, on top of the recent concessions contracts that brought expanded options and a world-class variety of selections to airport customers, mean myriad opportunities for businesses to become a part of the Houston Airport System success story. In an effort to ensure a representative number of DBEs, ACDBEs and Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) play a vital role in this growth, the airport system has a robust and active Office of Business Opportunity (OBO) program in place.

// Spring 2017


IAH will open 120 new restaurants and stores and add more than 2,000 new parking spaces over the next decade. Diaz said: “Houston is the most diverse city in the United States, and as such it is important that we provide opportunities to businesses that reflect that population. That’s not easy, and it takes more than cursory efforts to open doors that were not available to many not so long ago. The Houston Airport System made a commitment to being an agent of change when it established its Office of Business Opportunity. Our program is committed to creating a level playing field on which Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, Minority and Women, Small and Persons with Disabilities Business Enterprises can participate in an environment that removes barriers, ensures nondiscrimination, and provides the tools necessary to compete successfully.”

In the midst of a 10-year, $4 billion capital improvement program, the sheer number of opportunities for participation in projects in Houston is impressive. Foremost is the International Terminal Redevelopment Project. The planned $1.5 billion expansion of the Mickey Leland International Terminal at Bush Airport is scheduled to begin before the end of 2017 and will consist of the demolition of United’s old terminal building and the construction of a new 780,000-square-foot terminal, also known as Terminal D. The new international terminal will be 53 percent larger than the current structure, will feature 15 gates (all wide-body capable), and make strong use of natural light throughout the facility.

The focus on ensuring DBE participation during this period of substantial growth has been vital. With an overall goal of 29 percent participation, the airport system’s OBO program strives to meet and exceed that number for airport improvements projects.

The airport system hosted a daylong outreach event in December 2016 to provide DBEs an overview of the project and share information on how to pursue contracting opportunities. Project coordinators anticipate the MBE and WBE goals on design and construction contracts for the project to be 30 percent for design and approximately 30 percent for construction.

“The main focus of the HAS OBO office is to make small businesses successful,” said Jason McLemore, the Deputy Assistant Director at the airport system in charge of the OBO program. “This has been accomplished through Industry Days, One-on-One business coaching sessions and countless networking opportunities.”


// Spring 2017

“Each contract is evaluated on a case-bycase basis to determine the highest level of minority and small business participation based on the available, ready, willing and able contractors in the marketplace,” McLemore said.

AMAC Board Member and HAS Chief Municipal & Community Affairs Officer Rhonda Arnold serves as the Local Chair of the 2017 Airport Business Diversity Conference

In partnership with United Airlines, the linchpin in the International Terminal Redevelopment Program was the opening of the new Terminal C North at Bush Airport project in March 2017. The $244 million project produced a 265,000-square-foot terminal with 11 passenger gates that will house a regional hub for United. MBEs and WBEs participated significantly, getting 32 percent of the expenditures on the project.

In addition to the new terminal, other projects scheduled for Bush Airport include an improved north terminal roadway, expanded aircraft parking areas, expanded Federal Inspection Services (FIS) facilities, a new Terminal D baggage handling system, a new Terminal C West Parking Garage, and infrastructure and utilities modernization. MBEs and WBEs are expected to participate significantly in these projects as well. In 2016, the recent expansion at Hobby Airport helped it earn a 4-star rating from Skytrax, recognized as a leading global air transport rating organization; making it one of just three airports in the United States to earn a 4-star rating. That recognition came after the completion of a new $156 million concourse, including a state-of-the-art Federal Inspection Facility to accommodate the return of international air service at Hobby Airport for the first time in nearly 50 years.



Additionally, the airport system is in the final stages of rolling out a $1.6 billion upgrade in contracts to concession operators, in which 39 percent was awarded to ACDBEs, to expand and enhance travelers’ experiences at the airport. A wide variety of

new restaurants and shops—including both recognized national brands as well as an expanded number of local outlets— have been added to both Bush and Hobby. These new concessions will better meet the needs of Houston’s growing and diverse number of travelers. During the contracting process, the OBO worked diligently with prospective ACDBE operators to help develop direct leasing opportunities and sub-tenant relationships with large concession operators, allowing diverse firms and concepts to be represented in the improved concessions program. AMAC also will use the conference event to offer its Project Lift program to educate and mentor students interested in careers in the aviation industry. Each year, AMAC volunteers host students at the annual conference for a full day of presentations and activities designed to introduce them to the wide variety of careers open to diverse students. “The Houston Airport System has a history of supporting future generations of aviation professionals,” Arnold said. “Our Aviation Club is a mentorship program that exposes Houstonarea students to careers in aviation and aerospace. So, supporting Project Lift and its mission to develop educational programs and information designed to substantially increase the nationwide pool of future aviation professionals is a natural partnership.” Registration and schedule information for the 2017 Airport Business Diversity Conference is available on the AMAC website at

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A global airport is looking for your business

At Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, we believe that creating a variety of business partnerships is vital to the contribution of our region’s economic growth. That is why we are fully committed to creating and sustaining an environment that empowers small, disadvantaged, minority and women-owned businesses, including concessions, to reach their global potential at DFW Airport. We invite your business to discover, connect and grow with us. Contact our Business Diversity and Development team today. DFW Airport - Business Diversity and Development |


// Spring 2017


comto awards

Women Who Move the Nation By American DBE Staff

2017 COMTO Celebrating Women Who Move the Nation award winners gather with COMTO leaders prior to the awards ceremony in Washington, DC.


f men are the head, then women are the neck that turns the head,” said COMTO 2017 Women Who Move the Nation honoree Anne McNeill. Throughout history, women have made a profound impact on the transportation industry, helping to move the industry toward advancement, innovation and inclusion. For the past six years, the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) has taken time during the month of March to honor women who have made a significant impact in the transportation industry. The timing of the “Celebrating Women Who Move the Nation” (CWWMN) program coincides with Women’s History Month. The annual event is celebrated in Washington, D.C. and has honored over 60 women leaders from all segments of the transportation industry since its inception. COMTO selected 11 women for recognition in 2017. Honorees were selected by the CWWMN Selection Committee based on several criteria including: demonstrated leadership, commitment to diversity and inclusion, advancement of minorities and women, demonstrated effective advocacy, and support of Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUBs). “We had a program filled with phenomenal women who are

transforming the transportation industry every single day,” said COMTO Interim President and CEO, A. Bradley Mims. “They continue to open doors for generations of women to come.” The first award, COMTO’s 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award, was presented to Mrs. Juanita Jones Abernathy. As the widow of Rev. Dr. Ralph David Abernathy, a close associate to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Abernathy was deeply involved in the civil rights movement and has spent much of her life advocating for justice around the world. She currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA). Abernathy is the only living person that was a major organizer from the inception of the American Civil Rights Movement. As a Business Education teacher, Abernathy wrote the business plan for the Montgomery Bus Boycott; and her home became the meeting place for the private strategy sessions of Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Abernathy, and other leaders of the boycott. She endured years of daily death threats and survived the bombing of their family home in 1957.

// Spring 2017


After receiving a standing ovation from guests at the breakfast ceremony, Abernathy shared her involvement in the early days of the boycott. She shared that on December 1, 1955—when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus—that Parks was actually seated in the area of the bus designated for “colored riders,” but was told to give up her seat to a white man. She also shared that Parks was the third “colored” person arrested for refusing to give up a seat on the bus, but that Parks’ arrest is what led to organizing the boycott. “It all started with women,” Abernathy said. “You all don’t give us a lot of credit. But when a woman starts to do something, and puts her heart in it, you need to look out.”

2017 COMTO Women

Who Move the Nation Honorees

Two owners of Disadvantaged Business Enterprises were honored by COMTO for their advocacy efforts in the transportation industry - Terry Solis, principal and founder of The Solis Group; and Anne McNeill, president of MCO Construction. The Solis Group, based in Pasadena, California, has been in business 25 years, focusing on providing consulting services to public agencies and contractors in the areas of construction, program and project management, labor compliance, SBE/DBE outreach, and contract administration. “It is an incredible experience to be recognized by COMTO,” Solis said. “I tend to think that I work on the down-low. When people want to be mentored or want to know about how to enter the transit industry, they find their way to my door somehow; because it’s not something I advertise. But, if they take the time to come to me, I help them in any way that I can.”


McNeill founded MCO Construction, one of South Florida’s first African American-female owned construction companies, over 40 years ago. MCO Construction is still one of the leading minority firms in South Florida in the area of construction management and project controls. As a licensed general contractor in the male-dominated construction industry, McNeill discovered that women in the construction business were few and far between, so she became an advocate for women like her in the industry. McNeill founded the National Association of Black Women in Construction (NABWIC) to help build a pipeline for black women in every area of the industry. McNeill said she is grateful for the recognition by COMTO as a 2017 honoree. “I think we have a responsibility, when we receive any kind of acknowledgement for what we do; we must show young black girls that this is possible for them,” McNeill said.

Anne McNeill, President and CEO of MCO Construction, accepts the Advocacy Honoree Award from COMTO National Board Chair Warren Montague (l) and Celebrating Women Who Move the Nation Awards Committee Chair Jannet Walker Ford.

Margareth Bonds Senior Vice President & Director-State Municipal Government Relations, Parsons Thella Bowens President/CEO, San Diego International Airport Ginger Evans Commissioner, Chicago Department of Aviation // Spring 2017

Civil Rights Activist and Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit System Board Member Juanita Jones Abernathy shares her story while accepting the COMTO Lifetime Achievement Award. “Because you must have a dream, in order to have a dream come true.” “It is a privilege to recognize such an esteemed group of nominees—and working with our review committee to ensure each candidate was carefully considered,” said Jannet Walker Ford, Celebrating Women Who Move the Nation Chair and Vice President and General Manager of Eastern Region, Americas for Cubic Transportation Systems. “When we selected this year’s 11 honorees, we knew that once again we were honoring a group of glass ceilingshattering women who are committed to the modernization and renewed investment in our nation’s transportation systems, and the dedicated employees they celebrate and mentor.”

Greer Johnson Gillis Director, District of Columbia Department of General Services Sharon Greene Senior Vice President, HDR Inc. Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim Interim Executive Director, Metropolitan Transit Authority-New York Bertha Henry CEO & County Administrator, Broward County

Loretta Kirk Deputy General Manager-Finance & Administration, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Anne McNeill President, MCO Construction & Services Terry Solís Principal, The Solis Group

U.S. Department of Transportation Small Business Transportation Resource Center

South Atlantic Region North Carolina • Kentucky • Virginia • West Virginia 114 W. Parrish Street | Durham, NC 27701 | For additional information regarding program services and support contact: Kaye Gantt, Regional Director at (919) 956-2341 | F: (919) 688-7668 |

Helping Small Business Move Forward

How We Help • Bonding Education Program • Women & Girls in Transportation Initiative • DBE Certifications • Procurement Assistance • Short Term Lending Program • Counseling and Technical Assistance

// Spring 2017



Making The Case

for DBE Programs By Jordan Taylor

National Disparity Study Report Confirms the Need for DBE Programs


n December 2016, the Minority Business Development Agency published a report titled, “Contracting Barriers and Factors Affecting Minority Business Enterprises – A Review of Existing Disparity Studies” – (MBDA Report). The report was developed to quantify and categorize the trends and patterns of discriminatory practices in contracting that create economic disadvantages for historically underutilized businesses. More than 100 official disparity studies published within the past decade were reviewed and analyzed to support the MBDA Report. “Our goal in releasing this report is to advance the dialogue surrounding contracting disparities and use the findings as a catalyst for creating policy and innovative solutions. It’s critically important that MBEs, advocacy groups and policy makers have access to this information,” MBDA National Deputy Director Albert K. Shen said in a press release. “This report also underscores the power of data and the fact that we still have

a lot of work to do to ensure MBEs have fair and equal access to contracting opportunities.” Although the various disparity studies analyzed to complete the report were conducted and compiled by different agencies and authors— in different regions and markets—the results were consistent nationwide; highlighting a pervasive pattern of contracting disparities along racial and ethnic lines. In addition to quantitative data that measured participation goals and contracting dollars paid to companies owned by minority- and women-owned companies (DBEs), the MBDA Report also factored in anecdotal content from a qualitative perspective that provided context and narrative about how and why disparity gaps continue to widen, and shared insight into the unspoken rules that adversely affect M/W/DBE firms.


// Spring 2017

A disparity study is a comprehensive analysis that measures participation by DBEs on contracts in comparison to the percentage of work awarded to majority firms. The purpose of disparity studies is to provide an objective assessment of whether or not race- and gender-conscious programs are needed to assist DBEs seeking public-sector work. In practice, disparity studies examine whether and to what extent there are disparities between the availability of DBEs and their utilization on public and private sector contracts and subcontracts. This is known as the “disparity index” or “disparity ratio,” which is calculated by dividing the utilization of DBEs by the availability of DBEs [NCHRP Report 644]. Utilization by the contracting agency is assessed by previous DBE contract awards and actual payments to DBEs. Availability is defined as the number of qualified minority contractors “willing and able” to perform a particular service for the state and/or local government (American DBE, June 2013).

The MBDA study presented several questions to participants and interview subjects in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of ongoing challenges that minority business owners face. The questions included: 1. What factors create barriers and cause disparities in public contracting for MBEs? 2. What information do existing studies provide stakeholders in assisting agencies address observed disparities? 3. What areas warrant further investigation and policy research with respect to contracting disparities experienced by MBEs? (MBDA Report, Page 7, Dec. 2016)

The report identified the most frequently cited contracting barriers facing minority-owned firms. The barriers were broken into three primary categories: Pervasive Barriers affecting all minorityowned firms, Prime-Level Barriers facing minority-owned firms seeking to contract directly with a government agency, and Subcontractor Level Barriers impacting minority-owned firms that seek to do business with a prime contractor who has a contract with a government agency. The Pervasive Barriers identified by the report are access to capital, network access (access to business relationships) and marketplace discrimination. The report noted “Access to Capital and Network Access barriers can arise due to both discriminatory and nondiscriminatory reasons and also influence non-discriminatory barriers such as bonding and insurance.” Barriers faced by minority prime contractors are divided into two categories: Discriminatory and Non-Discriminatory. Prime Level Discriminatory Barriers are: timely bid notifications from the contracting agency, explicit discrimination and MBE/DBE stigma. MBE/DBE stigma refers to discrimination by a government agencies due to a belief that MBE/ DBE firms inherently offer lower value or quality simply because they are a minority. Prime Level Non-Discriminatory Barriers are: large project sizes which are above the capacity of most minority firms, bonding/insurance and bid requirements, and timely payments. Subcontractor Level Discriminatory Barriers include: timely bid notification, held bid, lack of good faith effort, only using an MBE if required, explicit discrimination, stereotypes, higher and double standards, and MBE/DBE stigma (MBDA Report, Chart-Figure ES-2, Page 12).

Attorney Rodney Strong, CEO of Griffin & Strong, P.C., an Atlanta-based firm specializing in disparity studies said he generally agrees with the findings of the report. One of Strong’s first jobs in the minority business development arena was managing the City of Atlanta’s Office of Contract Compliance, serving under both Mayor Andrew Young and Mayor Maynard Jackson. Strong has since launched his own firm and has completed disparity studies for several government agencies. “Our studies have found that minority firms across the country face many of the same barriers, albeit in different magnitudes depending on the location,” Strong said. “So it makes sense that the MBDA’s report is able to aggregate the most frequent barriers into a succinct list.”

Attorney Rodney K. Strong; Founder, Chairman and CEO of Griffin & Strong, P.C. Disparity study expert Attorney Colette Holt, CEO of Colette Holt & Associates, has led disparity studies nationwide and is also not surprised by the findings. “Yes, disparity study results are fairly consistent because discrimination operates pretty much the same everywhere,” she said. “There may be slight regional nuances, and the virulence and nakedness of the racism and sexism may be more or less in specific communities, but systemic barriers do not vary much by the location of the firms.” // Spring 2017


“Our hope is that this report will give policy makers and MBE advocates the information and data they need to make systemic changes” MBDA Report Attorney Colette Holt, Colette Holt & Associates

There are several other observations and insights identified in the MBDA report that offer useful information to program administrators and DBEs to help address issues and make program improvements. Two of the insights are that “the needle has not moved” for minority-owned businesses despite the numerous disparity studies and programs implemented to help develop minority firms; and that disparity studies often make similar recommendations to government agencies to improve minority business development programs. The latter insight suggests that new strategies and recommendations should be considered to move minority business development efforts forward.

Second, commit to spend the resources to implement recommended changes before procuring the study. Studies are not selfexecuting, and all too often, the agency has no resources to implement any but the no-cost recommendations. If there is no resolve to do anything differently, don’t waste the money on a study—spend it on technical assistance services for firms that might actually help someone.”

Attorney Holt believes that the problem is not necessarily the similarity in recommendations, but in how agencies go about procuring a disparity study. She said there are several steps an agency should take to ensure an effective disparity process:

“The first category [includes] agencies that have a strong program and want to do a study to see if they still have the basis for a program—and as an evaluation of how their program is doing. The second category [includes] agencies that know their program has some challenges and want to do a study to find out where they are, and get recommendations for making improvements. And the third category is agencies that really don’t have a commitment to developing minority businesses, but are getting community and political pressure to do a study.

“First, critically evaluate the study methodology and results. If they don’t make sense, don’t rely on the study. However, this assumes the agency really does its homework to understand these issues before the study is procured.


// Spring 2017

Strong also believes government agencies that commission a disparity study are the key drivers of using the results of a disparity study effectively. He said his experience has led him to categorize agencies procuring disparity studies into three categories. Strong said:

So they conduct a study not to make improvements, but because of the outside pressure. Unfortunately, there are many agencies that fall in this category, which is why the needle has not moved as much as we would like.” The MBDA wants to see the results of its research make a positive impact on opportunities for minority-owned companies nationwide. The closing sentence of the report’s executive summary states, “Our hope is that this report will give policy makers and MBE advocates the information and data they need to make systemic changes.”

2010 ALB

Parvez Sharifipour Albany Airport Donuts, LLC “Dunkin’ Donuts”



2012 ATL

Tony Morrow The Pecan, Inc. “The Pecan”

2011 PHX

Gonzalo de la Melena Emerging Domestic Market Ventures, LLC “Sir Veza’s Taco Garage”

Recently, the DOT’s Office of the Inspector General issued its report: “New Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Firms Face Barriers to Obtaining Work at the Nation’s Largest Airports.” At HMSHost, proudly forging fresh and compelling ACDBE partnerships has always been a priority. We’ve consistently identified new and talented minority and women-owned firms to join our family in developing dynamic airport concessions opportunities. ACDBE sourcing will continue to play a major role in our future. How about yours? Let’s plan together in 2016. Contact Ron Gomes with HMSHost Strategic Alliances:

2014 LAX

Meg Gill Meg Blonde Ale Holdings, LLC “Blu20” & “Point the Way Café”

2013 SAT

Lisa Fullerton A Novel Idea, LLC “Auntie Anne’s Pretzels”

// fall 2016 27 // Spring 2017


e r a y l p o w e r p d b e

Connico’s Success is A

Dream Come True By American DBE Staff

Connie Gowder, CEO of Connico Incorporated, has demonstrated that dreams can come true for those able to provide a high-quality product, build lasting relationships with customers, and stay the course during difficult times.


very entrepreneur begins his or her venture with the dream of turning an idea into a successful enterprise that is valued by customers in the marketplace. However, the dream only becomes a reality through the skill, performance and perseverance of the owner in navigating the challenging business landscape to carve out their place in the industry. After 27 years in business, Connie Gowder, CEO of Connico Incorporated, has demonstrated that dreams can come true for those able to provide a high-quality product, build lasting relationships with customers, and stay the course during difficult times. Although she always wanted to own her own company, Gowder started Connico Incorporated in Nashville, Tennessee in 1990 after she could not find employment during a downturn in the construction industry. Gowder said, “Twenty-seven years ago I was looking for employment in Nashville and the market was

flat. It was a downturn market in 1990, so I decided to go it alone and start my own business, thinking I would do what I did when I lived in Atlanta.” Gowder had accumulated extensive experience in providing cost estimating and cost planning for commercial construction projects, but she soon found out that the Nashville market was different than the Atlanta market. Architects and engineering firms in Nashville rarely hired consultants for cost estimating services on projects. However, after some time, she landed her first contract on an aviation project at the Nashville International Airport, and soon after landed a second aviation contract at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport that launched Connico on the road to success. “I worked on the Nashville project and hired David Hunley to lead our two-year project in Cincinnati; and 25 years later, he is still with us. David is my vice president and business partner running the Cincinnati office,” Gowder said.

Gowder found her true passion when she accepted a position with a consulting firm in Atlanta as a cost consultant: “I did not know about the consulting world, but thought – ‘well, I’ll give it a whirl’ - since it was different than what I was accustomed to.” Gowder has been involved in the construction industry for most of her life. A Pittsburgh native, Gowder grew up working in her father’s utility and earthwork construction firm as a teenager. After high school, she enrolled at Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minnesota and earned a bachelor’s degree in construction management. “I enjoyed being around the equipment,” Gowder said. “And for me, being around a big earthwork project was a great ball of fun.” She began her career after college working in Dallas for a mechanical contractor doing estimating and bidding. Gowder found her true passion when she accepted a position with a consulting firm in Atlanta as a cost consultant. “I did not know about the consulting world, but thought – ‘well I’ll give it a whirl’ - since it was different than what I was accustomed to.” She said she fell in love with the variety of work she gets to see being a consultant, versus a contractor. “If you are a contractor, you estimate it, you build it, and you are with it for a long time. As a consultant you work on such a variety of different projects.”

Connico Incorporated is presently a construction consulting firm providing cost estimating, scheduling, program & project management services and other services that include independent fee reviews, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise plans, and wage rate monitoring. Although the firm’s primary focus has been the aviation industry, Connico also works on projects in highway infrastructure, museums, institutions, treatment plants and other market segments of the construction industry. Connico is headquartered in Nashville, but maintains the Cincinnati office it opened in 1992. The firm’s customer base is an equal mix of owners, architecture firms, engineering firms and airport planners. “We work with planners on master plan estimating,” Gowder said. “And with architects and engineers when a project is in design, doing schematic design, design development, and construction document estimates through design, to make sure the project is staying in budget, so that there are no surprises on bid day. We also do change order estimating.”

Connie Gowder, founder and CEO of Connico Inc. Gowder started the company in 1990 and is celebrating 27 years in business.

// Spring 2017


The company has grown to 13 employees and is a DBE-certified firm in 45 states and Puerto Rico. Gowder concedes that keeping up with all of the certifications takes a lot of effort, so the company hired an administrator to help manage the paperwork. “My admin takes care of the certifications; and the B2GNow process helps a lot, because you are putting your tax returns and private information out there and agencies that use the system can pull down your information right from the system,” she said. “I love their upload process, plus our FedEx bill is cut down, because we don’t send our information through the U.S. Mail (since we won’t be able to track who received and signed for the information.)” Through the years, Connico has worked on projects at many airports across the United States. The company is actively working on airport projects in Memphis, Houston, Charlotte, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Lexington, Kentucky. Gowder said, “We might have 10 projects at any given time, and we are continually updating things.” Business has been good for the company in recent months, and in 2017, Gowder hopes to expand operations into more locations across the U.S. and add three or four staff to her 13-member team. “Work has picked up tremendously since the recession. It has exploded, and we market heavily; some firms are finally giving us an opportunity,” she said. Although times are good now, Gowder still remembers some of the challenges she faced starting a company in a maledominated industry. She remembers often being the only woman in the room and sometimes being overlooked by men who underestimated her expertise. “Early on in my career it was often assumed that I was there for clerical reasons or accounting reasons, not because I was an estimator and construction was my background,” She said: “I had a lot of challenge with that for years, and even after I started the business, people didn’t think we could do the job. Once I started to have employees, I would sometimes put the men out in front of me because people assumed they knew more than I did—whether they did or not—but I


// Spring 2017

Connico Vice President David Hunley (R), and engineer Sri Kumar on a project at the Cincinnati Airport. Hunley has led Connico’s Cincinnati office from its inception.

just dealt with it. But after being in business this long, people realize that I do know construction, but I still rely on my staff.” Having addressed the challenge of gaining credibility and experience in the industry, Connico’s current challenges are the same as many other architecture and engineering firms throughout the industry—a labor shortage. Gowder said that a perfect storm arising from the people exiting the industry during the economic recession, the retirement of aging baby boomers, a shift in young professionals away from construction careers toward white collar professions, and a post-recession boom has created a severe dearth of young talent to draw from. “There is an extreme labor shortage and I think it is only going to get worse,” Gowder said. “So we have to start training the young professionals, which we are doing as well.” Gowder is currently using her role as Chair of the Corporate Committee for the Southeast Chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) to create initiatives to introduce young architects and engineers (A/E) to the aviation industry. “This year we have a push for young professionals in the A/E community; most AAAE conferences invite aviation students, but this year we are also inviting A/E students, because we need to grow consultants as well, who need to be exposed to the aviation industry.”

Gowder sees Connico’s success as the result of three areas of focus she has maintained throughout her years in business - providing quality service, marketing and networking. She believes that the most important factor is doing quality work. “It all boils down to providing quality service,” she said. “Sometimes the perception is that DBEs provide lower quality so we have to overcome that with our quality.” Second, she believes that over the years she has built a strong network of clients through the projects the company has completed and her participation in industry events and conferences to introduce the company to new clients. Finally, she believes that being active in professional associations like AAAE and ACC has allowed her to network with decision makers in the airport and A/E industry that could potentially turn into opportunities in the future. As a single mother of two teenage girls that she adopted from China, Gowder most values the people and relationships she has built during her 27 years of business. She said: “I most enjoy the people. Over the years I have met so many wonderful people; and when I travel, I love to go through our clients’ airports and see the types of projects we have done. It’s great to go back and see the work we have been involved in.”

Conference Registration


at JUNE 14-16, 2017 Columbia, South Carolina at the Marriott Downtown Columbia

// Spring 2017


Creating DBE Opportunities By American DBE Staff

d b e


o w e r



a y

e r

JMAA Five-Year Strategic Plan Includes

Presenters at the JMAA Industry Day Program (from l-r): Don Shepley, Gulfport-Biloxi Airport; Darion Warren, JMAA; Carl Newman, JMAA, Will Schuller, Federal Aviation Administration; Michael Hainsey, Golden Triangle Airport; Jack Thomas, JMAA


he Board of Directors, executive leadership and staff of the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority (JMAA) view creating opportunities for Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) as a central component of airport operations. When JMAA published its five-year strategic plan in the spring of 2016, one of the five program areas included in the plan details actions the DBE Program will take to align with the airport’s overall strategy to serve travelers in the Central Mississippi region. This level of commitment encompasses the organizational culture of JMAA and is shared throughout the organization. One of the action items for the JMAA DBE Program included in the strategic plan was the implementation of an annual Industry Day Program. JMAA kicked off 2017 with its second annual Industry Day event on January 17. The goal of the event was to share information regarding upcoming opportunities with

DBEs, small businesses and large firms that will result from “Strategic Plan 2021,” the plan that will drive the organization’s capital expenditures for the next five years. Over 300 DBEs, small businesses and resource partners participated in a daylong program featuring presentations describing upcoming opportunities at JMAA’s Jackson Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport, Hawkins Field and two other Mississippi airports - Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport and Golden Triangle Regional Airport. “One of our strategic objectives at the JMAA is to foster and support DBEs and small businesses,” said Carl Newman, JMAA Chief Executive Officer. “The annual Industry Day event brings together vendors, suppliers and contractors in one room, so they can have the chance to learn about projects that are taking place at our airports and others across the state of Mississippi.”

Over 300 DBEs, small businesses and resource partners participated in a daylong program

program in partnership with Marketplace PHL and has achieved ACDBE

Industry Day panelists Joe Jackson of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport (middle) and Michael Russell of H.J. Russell & Company (right) talk with George Hilliard of the Pete Mitchell Insurance Company after a breakout session on forming joint ventures.

The Industry Day event aligns specifically with the strategic plan objective of creating a robust outreach program to provide the community with information on opportunities to work with and for the Authority. The event is the brainchild of Jack Thomas, JMAA Director of Disadvantaged Business Enterprises and Community Development. Thomas’ vision for the program was to bring DBEs, small businesses and large businesses together with JMAA decision makers, other regional airports, and resources that can provide assistance in helping them succeed. In addition to presentations from the participating airports, the event featured a tradeshow with representatives from many community resources, including: Mississippi Chapter of the Associated Building Contractors, Associated General Contractors of America, U.S Small Business Administration, the federal Office of Contract Compliance, local banks and other JMAA business partners. The Industry Day program also provided the business community with a variety of workshop sessions designed to help companies grow and do business in the

airport industry. Session titles included: How to do Business with Rental Car Companies; What’s a Joint Venture and How Can it Help Me Grow My Business; Proposal Preparation; and How to Fulfill Bonding and Insurance Requirements. JMAA used the event as an avenue to share detailed information about capital projects taking place at the airport beginning in 2017. The projects include: a new consolidated rental car facility currently under design; a project to install a new parking access and revenue control system beginning in early 2017; and a runway rehabilitation project also beginning in 2017. Additional projects in the five-year plan include: an upper roadway vehicular bridge project; a security checkpoint reconfiguration project; a terminal upgrade; carpet and paint project; and a restroom improvement project. Implementing a successful Industry Day program was one of over 20 action items identified for the DBE Program in the strategic plan. JMAA developed the comprehensive list of actions to identify the specific actions necessary to create an

participation of over 35% exemplary program to ensure access and opportunity for DBE firms. For example, an internally-focused action plan is to launch an initiative titled “Deriving Value from Inclusion” or “Moving from Diversity to Inclusion” to educate staff on strategies to maximize opportunities for DBEs. Externally-focused action plans include specific numeric targets for improvement in the level of participation from DBE firms. One target is to increase the inclusion of diverse suppliers by 3 percent annually as a part of the strategic sourcing and procurement process. Regarding DBE certification, the strategic plan describes several steps JMAA will take to improve its certification process. The steps include plans to acknowledge receipt of certification applications within three days of receipt; conduct site visits within 30 days of receipt of a complete certification application; provide regulatory DBE information—including DBE eligibility criteria—on the JMAA website; and to provide current lists and/ or links to lists of certified firms on the JMAA website.

// Spring 2017


Thomas believes having a comprehensive listing of the DBE Program’s objectives and strategic action plans helps to support the overall program and drives the program’s significance throughout the entire organization. He said: “The strategic plan sets the tone for the entire organization, and it is referenced time and time again during our internal and external meetings. It is a living document that changes, but the underlying goals and objectives remain the same. As a result, the goal and objectives of the DBE Program remain viable, yet flexible enough to adapt to the needs of the organization and the businesses we serve.” JMAA’s level of inclusion for the DBE Program, as part of management’s core functions, only comes to fruition through the support of the organization’s leadership. “Our goal is to ensure fair and equitable opportunities for the DBE community across Mississippi,” said Carl D. Newman, Chief Operating

A conference participant poses a question to the panel at the JMAA Industry Day program.

Representatives from Kimley-Horn Engineering participate in the exhibit hall of the JMAA Industry Day program.

Officer for the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport. “We have implemented our Strategic Plan 2021, which includes both internal and external action items, which aim to generate more vital information and create more opportunities for DBE firms.”

certified in the state of Mississippi and to complete the JMAA vendor registration process. He also advises firms to actively monitor the JMAA website for upcoming projects and bidding opportunities, and to actively participate in future outreach efforts. Information about these opportunities is available at http://jmaa. com/resources/dbe.

Thomas encourages DBEs interested in opportunities at JMAA to become

// Spring 2017



AMAC Lobbies Congress Members to

Advance Legislative Agenda By American DBE Staff

The Airport Minority Advisory Committee (AMAC) convened its annual Leadership Summit on Capitol Hill on March 22, 2017.


he Airport Minority Advisory Committee (AMAC) convened its annual Leadership Summit on Capitol Hill on March 22, 2017, and used the occasion to renew efforts to impact favorable legislation for Disadvantaged Business Enterprises in the airport and airport concessions industries. The event, held in the U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee Hart Senate Office (D-Texas) encouraged AMAC Building on Capitol members at the Annual Leadership Hill, assembled Summit to stay involved in the DBE Program political process to advocate for administrators, DBE/ greater opportunities for minorityACDBE Firms and and women-owned businesses. industry stakeholders to dialogue on strategies to impact the impending Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization. The current FAA Reauthorization Bill expires in September 2017, and legislators are already negotiating various proposals for the bill. AMAC welcomed the input of high-ranking U.S. Congress members during the daylong summit meeting. Rep. Sheila


// Spring 2017

Jackson Lee (D-Texas) addressed participants by affirming her support of creating greater opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses through the DBE Program, and her ongoing support for the legislative initiatives of AMAC. Rep. Lee encouraged AMAC to continue seeking to advocate for affirmative action legislation like the DBE Program. She related her commitment and philosophy through a story about an interview she had with the late Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson while she was in law school. Lee said, “Maynard Jackson told me that the real problem is not the bad guys, but it is that good guys have gone to sleep. If you don’t like affirmative action, then what is your plan to guarantee a level playing field of opportunity? Politics is not perfect, but it is the best available nonviolent means of changing how we live.” AMAC also used the summit to continue educating members and stakeholders on its key legislative agenda items to prepare them for meetings with member of Congress scheduled in the afternoon. AMAC’s legislative agenda focused on three areas. First, AMAC is striving to protect and preserve the DBE Program in the upcoming FAA Reauthorization Bill, and to ensure that the current program is not weakened by the current members of Congress. Although, AMAC lobbyists said they haven’t seen any direct threats to the DBE Program by current members of Congress, they also acknowledge that the environment in Washington, D.C. is less than stable. Therefore they advise AMAC not to take the continuation of the DBE Program for granted in the current FAA Reauthorization process.

Nancy West, CEO of Exstare Federal Services Group, asks a question to panelists at the Annual Leadership Summit on Capitol Hill.

The second, and potentially more acute, issue AMAC is seeking to address is the inclusion of the DBE Program in any proposal to amend the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) Statute. Many airport industry stakeholders, with the exception of the major airlines, support removing the current PFC cap of $4.50 per airline ticket segment (up to $9.00 per trip) that has been in place since 2000. PFCs are collected by airlines on each airline ticket purchased and then passed to the associated airport used by the departing passenger. Airports use revenues from PFCs to fund renovations and capital improvement projects like building new terminals, baggage handling systems and landside infrastructure. Although AMAC supports the removal or adjustment of the PFC cap to allow airports to collect more fees for airport improvements, it also seeks to add the DBE Program provisions to any airport improvements funded by PFC fees. AMAC leaders are concerned that without the DBE Program connected to PFC-funded projects, airport business opportunities will fall subject to the internal policies or the laws of local governments, which could be inconsistent across airports with regard to DBE participation, and could be subject to change with local politics. The FAA reports that in 2016, 356 U.S. airports collected over $3.2 billion in PFCs from travelers. AMAC is keenly aware that a potential increase in the amount of PFCs, along with expected increases in both domestic and international air travel, will greatly expand the amount of projects funded by PFC

The FAA reports that in 2016, 356 U.S. airports collected over $3.2 billion in PFCs from travelers. revenues. Therefore, ensuring that the DBE Program is included in projects funded by PFCs is high on AMAC’s priority list. Furthermore, if a PFC increase is passed, Congress is expected to decrease the funding available through the federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP), the other major source of funding for airport capital improvements. A reduction in AIP funding, which included the DBE Program, would also reduce business opportunities for DBE firms. AMAC’s third legislative issue is the desire to conform the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) DBE Program Size Standard to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Standard. Currently, the DOT’s standard for consideration as a small business is less than the SBA’s standard. For instance, a construction firm must have average gross revenues over the past three years of less than $22.4 million to qualify as a DBE firm; however, the SBA’s standard for classification as a small business is $36.4 million. AMAC said that rule is “arbitrary” and should be addressed by Congress to conform the two programs to the same size standard.

// Spring 2017


“I have this belief about America – What makes us strong is our diversity. But how the heck can we expect to win as a team on the globally competitive field if we leave so many of our players on the sideline...” Senator Cory Booker, (D-N.J.)

U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) gives the keynote address to participants at the AMAC Annual Leadership Summit on Capitol Hill.

Other legislators attending the summit to affirm their support for AMAC were Congressman Rick Larsen (D-Wash), Ranking Member of the House Aviation Subcommittee on Transportation, and Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Senator Booker gave the keynote address during the summit. During his remarks, he drew a parallel between his two key values of striving for equality and inclusion, while striving to increase economic growth and opportunity to the legislative efforts of AMAC. Booker said: “I have this belief about America – What makes us strong is our diversity. But how the heck can we expect to win as a team on the globally competitive field if we leave so many of our players on the sideline, and don’t give them a chance to get on the field and compete and contribute and make us all better?” AMAC President/CEO Krystal Brumfield said that DBEs have a major role to play in seeking to advance the DBE Program during the current administration. She encouraged DBEs to stay active in the process by supporting AMAC’s legislative efforts and by giving input to legislators through testimonials about their experience in the DBE Program. “DBEs can give testimonials by simply sharing their story either via email; or what’s more powerful is if they film themselves and tell their story,” Brumfield said. “They can then send their email or video to the office. Either way that testimonial is going to tell a lifetime story of the impact of the DBE Program has not only had on their business, but on the communities that they are in.”

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash) shared his support for increasing Passenger Facility Charges and greater opportunities for DBEs in the airport indusry at the Annual Leadership Summit on Capitol Hill.

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// Spring 2017


THE MAGIC OF FLIGHT The Airport Minority Advisory Council’s Annual Conference provides a balanced program that addresses the diverse needs and the variety of interest levels of the conference audience, presented by speakers of the highest quality who share AMAC’s goal of promoting diversity inclusion in airport contracting, concession opportunities, and employment. CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS The Bill Walker Memorial Golf Tournament Business Matchmaking Celebrating Women in Aviation Airport Director’s Vision 20/30 Forum Young Professionals Aviation Industry Networking Educational Sessions Nightly Networking Receptions B2B Networking DBE Certification Training Legislative Updates Industry Updates Exhibit Expo …and much more!





A CityLYNX Gold Line street car runs through urban Charlotte. Phase II of the project will add an additional six miles and 11 stops to the current route. (Source: Charlotte Area Transit System)

Charlotte Streetcar Project Delivers

Economic Opportunity By American DBE Staff

Phase II of the Charlotte Area Transit Authority’s (CATS) CityLYNX Gold Line streetcar project broke ground in January 2017 and is now poised to create business and economic opportunities.


hase II of the Charlotte Area Transit Authority’s (CATS) CityLYNX Gold Line streetcar project broke ground in January 2017 and is now poised to create business and economic opportunities in the center-city area of Charlotte, North Carolina. The $150 million project will expand streetcar transit service to urban areas that often get left out of significant transportation infrastructure investments. The Gold Line project extends the current line by 2.5 miles, increasing the entire line to a length of 4 miles. Phase II extends the line from the Charlotte Transportation Center in the middle of Uptown Charlotte to the west by two miles and to the east by one-half mile, adding 11 new stops and six


// Spring 2017

new Siemens S70 modern streetcar vehicles. Charlotte native and U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was one of many dignitaries in attendance for the groundbreaking ceremony for Phase II of the project. Secretary Foxx said: “What you will be doing is more than just building transportation, you will be doing more than just getting people from A to B, and it will be more than catalyzing new housing, and new jobs and new opportunities. You will be pointing the way for the country to realize how to bring our people together again.” This new service will bring together Historic West End neighborhoods and

the Elizabeth neighborhood located east of Uptown. The Historic West End is anchored by Johnson C. Smith University, a historically black university that is less than a mile away from the thriving central business district of Uptown Charlotte. The Historic West End is also home to Charlotte’s oldest surviving middle-class African-American neighborhoods. The new Gold Line stops will bring new infrastructure investment to neighborhoods, which have experienced decline over the past few decades. However, in recent times the area has experienced over $200 million in public and private investments as people are now seeking to live closer to Uptown Charlotte.

CATS hosts a kickoff meeting for the USDOT Bonding Education Program at its headquarters building in Uptown Charlotte. The program was sponsored by CATS, the USDOT South Atlantic Small Business Transportation Resource Center, the Surety and Fidelity Association of America, and Johnson Brothers – the prime contractor on Phase II of the CityLYNX Gold Line project.

CATS awarded a $95 million construction contract to Texas-based Johnson Brothers Inc. to build the line and make other infrastructure improvements along the route. Johnson Brothers successfully met CATS DBE project goal of 11.8 percent by utilizing several DBE firms—some of them from the Charlotte area. Johnson Brothers made commitments to DBE firms totaling in excess of $11 million to perform scopes of work including traffic control, dump truck hauling, railroad construction, paving and material supplies. “We were able to meet and even exceed the DBE goal during our pre-construction outreach process, so we are in good shape as far as our DBE participation goes,” Johnson Brothers project manager Bill Tipton said. In addition to the DBE firms selected to work on the project, Johnson Brothers also hosted a job fair in Uptown Charlotte to recruit employees to fill over 100 positions needed to work on the job. Johnson Brothers held the job fair during the annual CIAA (Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association) Basketball Tournament. The CIAA is one of Charlotte’s largest annual events, which attracts thousands of supporters from the historically black colleges and universities that comprise the CIAA conference. “We were trying to do outreach into the community,” Tipton said. “We need employees to do this work and people need jobs.” The job fair was a successful

event, with over 70 people pre-registered to attend. “We had a variety of people, some folks were new to construction, some folks were transient in construction, and some folks were just seeing what we had to offer,” Tipton said. Johnson Brothers started the first portion of work on the project by completing the demolition and removal of a pedestrian bridge near the campus of Johnson C. Smith University, and is now proceeding with the improvement of storm drains along the project corridor. Once the grading is prepared, Bullock Construction will begin track installation work as a DBE subcontractor. Bullock Construction is a small woman-owned railroad contractor headquartered in Maryland, but is also certified in North Carolina and has completed several projects for the N.C. Department of Transportation and CATS. Bullock Construction has been in business since 1967, serving the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast area. Michelle Bullock took over as company president in 1997 and certified the company as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise in 2000. “We are looking forward to working on the project,” Bullock said. “All of our contact with Johnson Brothers has been good so far and we look forward to getting in there and getting started.” Bullock plans to send in a core crew initially and then hire local workers through an employment agency to complete the contract. “This will be one of our bigger jobs,” she said.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx joins with other Charlotte leaders at the groundbreaking ceremony for Phase II of the CityLYNX Gold Line Streetcar Project. (Source: Charlotte Area Transit System)

CATS and Johnson Brothers also hosted a six-week Bonding Education Program (BEP) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Surety and Fidelity Association of America in conjunction with Phase II of the Gold Line project. During the course, participants interacted with bond producers like Catalyst Surety Partners, Johnson Brothers staff and City of Charlotte officials. They also learned how to conduct business with various local, state and federal agencies. CATS Civil Rights Officer Arlanda Rouse said, “The goal of the BEP is to educate small businesses about best business practices, industry challenges, and to assist the participants in their efforts to obtain surety bonding or increase their bonding capacity.” Phase II of the CityLYNX Gold Line will open to the public in 2020 and is expected to continue the economic revitalization of inner-city Charlotte. Although Phase III of the Gold Line has yet to be planned, CATS anticipates that when the final phase is completed, the project will generate more than 1.1 million square feet in new development, increase incremental property tax revenues by over $4 million per year by the year 2035, and provide greater access to over 2,000 small businesses located within a quarter-mile of the line.

// Spring 2017


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// Spring 2017


Above, automobiles travel a congested highway during the morning rush hour. President Donald Trump promised to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure during his campaign to fix America’s road, bridges, airports and railroads. (Source: Shutterstock)

The Realities of

Trump’s Infrastructure Plan By Shelton A. Russell


resident Donald Trump announced his plan to pass legislation creating a $1 trillion investment in America’s infrastructure during his initial address to a joint session of Congress in February 2017. This announcement follows up on his campaign promise to fix America’s outdated and inadequate infrastructure. “Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land,” Trump said. “To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking the Congress to approve legislation that produces

a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States — financed through both public and private capital — creating millions of new jobs.” This announcement was followed in March 2017 by a government-wide effort led by White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn. Cohn met with officials from 15 federal agencies and departments, urging them to come up with answers to six planks for the infrastructure plan: identifying new projects; finding existing projects that need help with completion; identifying policy, regulatory and

statutory issues that would need to be addressed; and finally coming up with a way to pay for it all. While there are definitely reasons for optimism for both Disadvantaged Business Enterprises and Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (collectively DBEs), there are also reasons for concern. The concerns arise from the competing interests and policy decisions that will be made by Congress and the Trump Administration about how the bill will be financed and how federal regulations, including the DBE Program will be implemented by the Trump administration. // Spring 2017


Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao speaks during her Senate Confirmation Hearing on January 31, 2017. Secretary Chao is the first Asian American to serve in a cabinet position and the 18th Secretary of Transportation. (Source: Office of the President Elect)

President Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States.


THE GOOD The good thing for DBEs is a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure will consist primarily of construction projects in the transportation sector. These projects should offer ready, willing and able DBE firms business opportunities to participate in highway, bridge, railroad, airport and transit projects across the country. The adage ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ is fitting here, because DBEs of all shapes and sizes should have ample opportunity to participate as prime contractors, subcontractors, consultants or suppliers, provided they have the capacity and expertise to compete in the industry. The American Society of Civil Engineers said we must spend $1.6 trillion above current levels just to get our infrastructure to a state of good repair. The nation’s deteriorating infrastructure already costs the economy close to $200 billion a year, and if we do not make these needed investments now, they will simply cost more later. Both Democrats and Republicans agree that America’s infrastructure must be addressed. Senate Democrats recently published their version of a $1 trillion infrastructure plan titled “A Blueprint to Rebuild America’s Infrastructure: Creating Over 15 Million New Jobs.” So far the Democrats’ plan provides more detail of the breakdown of how a $1 trillion investment can be


spread across a variety of infrastructure needs. However, neither of the political parties seems to have a realistic plan on how to pay for it.

// Spring 2017

A potential bad thing for DBEs in this process is an increasing push from the Trump Administration to eliminate or significantly reduce federal government oversight regulations. Although much of the discussion thus far has focused on cutting back environmental and permitting regulations that detractors say slow down projects, leading highway construction industry organizations like the American Association of Road and Transportation Builders (ARTBA) has already voiced their desire for Trump to scale back DBE regulations as well. ARTBA released a report on January 1, 2017, titled “Ripe for Reform: Federal Regulatory Issues Impacting Transportation Project Delivery.” The first regulation cited by ARTBA to scale back was the federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program. The report recommends revisions to rules affecting DBE Goal Setting, Good Faith Efforts, DBE Prompt Payment Provisions, DBE Certification, Counting and Purchasing of Materials and Leasing of Equipment, and other areas of the DBE Program. ARTBA’s proposed changes to many of these provisions will reverse progress made to strengthen the DBE Program during the Obama Administration. The United States Department of Transportation updated the DBE Program Final Rule in 2014 in order to address program

The nation’s deteriorating infrastructure already costs the economy close to

$200 billion a year, and if we do not make these needed investments now, they will simply cost more later.

deficiencies identified by DBE Program administrators and DBE business owners. While the ARTBA plan does not request elimination of the DBE Program, its proposal would cause the program to lose ground when there is still significant ground to cover to achieve a level playing field.

THE UGLY Public Private Partnerships (P3s) are an innovative financing strategy gaining acceptance as an effective means of financing and fast-tracking infrastructure projects. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted legislation that enables the use of various P3 approaches for the development of transportation infrastructure. Many of these states already have P3 projects in operation or currently under construction. This emerging strategy for funding projects allows states to better meet public demand for infrastructure projects while shifting much of the initial cost to private investors seeking a return on their investment over time. Although P3s appear to be working successfully in most instances, Trump’s $1 trillion plan is likely to include a substantial increase in the number and type of projects that become P3s. This could potentially become an ugly scenario where more and inexperienced investors enter the market, financing more risky projects, which would then require higher returns. In addition, current infrastructure facilities, like most of the U.S. Interstate System, could potentially become privatelyowned toll roads, driving up costs for the public. U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said her office was exploring new ways to finance President Donald Trump’s proposed $1 trillion infrastructure upgrade, including through public-private partnerships. However, Chao offered no specifics about the type of projects that would be prioritized by the administration, or how they would be funded during a March

1 speech to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials in Washington, D.C. Chao said the Department of Transportation is exploring ways to unleash private investment, and said barriers that hinder publicprivate infrastructure partnerships need to be removed. “Business as usual is just not an option anymore. Everyone can agree that our country can no longer take decades to build a new bridge or a new road, a new highway or airport,” she said. The potentially ugly facet of a greatly expanded use of P3s is government entities and owners may lose the ability to ensure private investors provide the maximum opportunity for DBEs to participate in the design, building, operation and maintenance of transportation facilities. Although currently states require private entities entering into P3s to operate the DBE Program according to federal regulations, Trump’s new infrastructure plan offering tax credits and other incentives to lure private investors to funding projects could scale back DBE Program requirements.

TIME TO PREPARE Given the Trump Administration’s other pressing issues in 2017, like health care and immigration reform, many experts expect Congress to tackle a new infrastructure bill in 2018. This gives DBEs more time to prepare and advocate for the DBE Program to be a key part of any future infrastructure bill. The Senate Democrats’ infrastructure plan expresses the “strengthened participation of minority- and women-owned businesses” as one of its guiding principles. However, during his speech to Congress, Trump only mentioned two guiding principles for his infrastructure plan - “Buy America and Hire America.” Hopefully, increased opportunities and participation for the nation’s DBE firms are in included in his hire America plan.

// Spring 2017


business development

Inner City Capital Connections

Accepting Applications for the 2017 Program By American DBE Staff

The Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC) Program has helped urban small businesses grow, expand capacity and gain access to financing since 2005.


he Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC) Program has helped urban small businesses grow, expand capacity and gain access to financing since 2005. Each year, ICCC hosts executive education and training sessions in major cities across the country with the goal of “promoting economic prosperity in underserved communities” through job creation and economic development. ICCC accomplishes its goal by connecting entrepreneurs with top-notch educators and potential capital providers to build networks and create dialogue about business growth and development. “Since 2005, alumni of the Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC) program have had an average of 184% growth in revenue, created more than 12,000 jobs and raised $1.4 billion in capital,” ICCC said in its 2016 annual report. “By ensuring its alumni succeed, ICCC promotes sustainable business growth in underserved communities across the country.” ICCC leaders believe that by growing inner city entrepreneurs, the organization can greatly impact success within the urban core of America. ICCC research has shown that the addition of just one new job per small business could potentially eliminate urban unemployment.

Top: Professor Michael Porter speaks to the 2016 ICCC Boston participants in Boston, Mass. (Source: ICCC) Bottom: Jack Mitchell, Chairman of the Mitchell Stores and author of Hug Your Customers speaks at the 2015 ICCC Conference in New York, N.Y. (Source ICCC)


// Spring 2017

ICCC is a program created by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), a non-profit research and strategy organization, and the leading authority on U.S. inner city economies and the businesses that thrive there. Founded in 1994 by Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter, ICIC expands inner city economies by providing businesses, governments and investors with the most comprehensive and actionable information in the field about urban market opportunities. ICIC’s unique knowledge and expertise about inner city success factors and thriving companies is developed from specialized urban networks and path-breaking research.

Professor Derrick Collins, Dean – College of Business at Chicago State University speaks to 2016 ICCC Boston participants in Boston, MAss. (Source: ICCC)

ICCC is now accepting applications for upcoming sessions in 11 cities across the U.S. The 2017 program begins in Philadelphia in May. Other cities scheduled to host the program this year include Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee, Memphis, Los Angeles, Tampa, Washington (D.C.), Springfield (M.A.), Oakland and Dallas. ICCC is free of charge to entrepreneurs who are admitted into the program after meeting the program’s criteria for admission. However, participants must pay for their own travel and lodging, if necessary. ICCC is able to underwrite the program’s tuition by forging partnerships with corporations like Kaiser Permanente, Bank of America, Staples, Regions Bank, the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce and others whose financial support help make the program possible. Entrepreneurs admitted to the program must own an independent for-profit or not-for-profit corporation, partnership or proprietorship; have been in business for two or more years; and meet one of the following requirements: have its headquarters or more than 51 percent of its physical operations located in an economically distressed area, or have more than 40 percent of employees residing in an economically distressed area. ICCC reports that 1,122 firms have completed the program since 2005. Alumni firms represent a wide variety of industries; however, the largest

concentrations have come from the business services, retail, construction and manufacturing industries. The structure of the program has four components and combines interactive in-person and virtual sessions taught by leading business experts and academics. The first component is an executive education seminar hosted in the aforementioned cities. Second, participants complete up to seven virtual executive education webinars. Third, the participants will complete a minimum of two hours of individualized coaching. The program concludes with a national conference where participants from all of the host cities unite for additional education and networking. Entrepreneurs also use the national conference to pitch to capital providers, get onsite feedback and potentially get connected to capital. It takes participants approximately 40 hours over a 3 to 6-month period to complete all of the program components. Specific educational topics include marketing strategy, talent management, entrepreneurial finance, negotiation and persuasion, and presentation skills. Participants leave the program with actionable strategies for measuring growth, creating harmony between employees and customers, and building a team that supports business goals. An ICCC statement said, “While the topics

are refreshed frequently to reflect current business trends, the program content is consistently designed to help businesses build capacity and achieve sustainable growth.” ICCC leaders expect entrepreneurs completing the program to gain several benefits including: a new perspective on sustainable growth strategies and an understanding of how to apply them; a deepened knowledge of different types of capital and the best uses for each one; coaching on and practice making pitches to potential capital providers; and networking opportunities with business owners, experts, academics and capital providers in their region and nationwide. Stephanie Hickman, president and CEO of Trice Construction, has experienced a 91 percent growth in revenues since she finished the ICCC program in 2011. Trice Construction is a minority- and woman-owned civil construction firm based in Chicago. “It gave me a different framework to think about the business and how to position it for funding,” Hickman said in ICCC’s 2016 annual report. ICCC invites entrepreneurs seeking to apply for the program, or organizations seeking to nominate a business for the program, to visit inner-city-capital-connections/ for more information.

// Spring 2017


ATTENTION SUBCONTRACTORS PROJECT: Green Line LRT Extension (SW LRT) Civil Construction PROJECT NUMBER: 61001, Contract Number 15P307 17 LOCATION: Minneapolis to Eden Prairie, MN AGENCY: Metro Council QUOTES DUE DATE: May 18, 2017

Southwest Transit Constructors, a Joint Venture between Granite Construction Company, Mortenson Construction, and The Lane Construction Corporation, will be bidding the above-referenced project as a Prime Contractor. We are seeking Subcontractor and Material Supplier quotes on items identified in the Bid Documents. Southwest Transit Constructors is committed to subcontracting with Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE’s) in the procurement of goods and services for this project.


Removals Milling Erosion Control Storm Drainage Drilled Shafts Structural Steel Precast Bridge Girders Reinforcing Steel Independent Quality Assurance

Concrete Flatwork Asphalt Paving MSE Retaining Walls Guardrail Concrete Barrier Electrical Lighting Signs Surveying

Pavement Marking Fencing Seeding, Sod, & Landscaping Traffic Control Ready-Mix Fuel Suppliers Trucking Station Work Painting

Plans and specifications can be downloaded, for a small fee of $10.00, from the Metro Council web site at Pick the Doing Business tab on the top, and then pick the Current Contracting Opportunities. Plans and specifications are also available on the iSqFt Project web site sponsored by Mortenson Construction. Bonds will be requested of subcontractors. For information about bonding and insurance requirements, contact our contracts department at 831-722-2716. Email to express interest, or ask questions

2950 Metro Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, MN 55425 Southwest Transit Constructors is an EOE/Affirmative Action/Minority/Female/Veteran/Disabled Employer.

DBEs Invited Autoabilty, a premier manufacturer of wheelchair accessible vehicles, is seeking partners for existing and new vehicle projects. Interested metal forming and fabrication companies are urged to contact:

DBELO-Autoability P.O. Box 1015, Clarkston, MI 47347 248-620-4200 or

business development

When Crisis Strikes:

A Guide for Small Businesses By V.K. Fields

When it comes to handling a crisis, it’s not a question of “if,” it’s a matter of when and how. No company is crisisproof, because a crisis can occur at any time for any number of reasons.


hen it comes to handling a crisis, it’s not a question of “if,” it’s a matter of when and how. No company is crisis-proof, because a crisis can occur at any time for any number of reasons. A company can be the victim of a crisis, the unintended victim of a crisis, or the manufacturer of a crisis. Regardless of the problem’s source, the results are often just as devastating and damaging if a crisis is handled poorly. A crisis is any natural or manmade threat that can potentially harm a company. The range of crises that can affect an organization is vast and wide—including severe weather, computer hacks, or terrorism to product malfunctions, illadvised social media posts, poor customer service, financial mismanagement and inappropriate relationships. No company is too large or too small to face a crisis; and no matter the size of an organization, having a crisis response and crisis communication plan in place is mandatory. The recent parade of poorly handled crises by large multinational corporations has been astonishing; most of them the result of self-inflicted wounds and a refusal to follow some basic Crisis Communication rules that should be obvious.

RULE #1: PEOPLE FIRST Policies and procedures do not take priority over the importance of people and their safety. No matter what has happened and how badly things have gone or how much money has been lost, any and all remarks to the public must begin with an acknowledgement of the people who have been hurt, harmed, injured, targeted or negatively impacted.

RULE #2: TELL THE TRUTH… FAST During a crisis, when people don’t have information, they create it. Good, bad or ugly, any information and communication voids will be filled with rumors and speculation, which are difficult to control and impossible to contain. If the organization at the core of the crisis doesn’t tell its own story, someone else will—to the company’s detriment.

RULE #3: TAKE RESPONSIBILITY & DON’T BLAME OTHERS The reason many companies fail the crisis test is because their leadership is afraid to take responsibility for what has gone wrong, lest it be seen as an admission of guilt that can later be used against them in a court of law. The problem is that lawsuits often take years, but the court of public opinion— fueled by traditional media and social media—requires an immediate reaction and an immediate response. Blaming the victim or saying nothing at all are guaranteed to fail. For professionals who handle crises for companies, an unspoken rule is that you cannot communicate your way out of something you behaved your way into. In other words, they understand that clients, customers, media and the public don’t just want empty words—they want a change in behavior, procedures and operations to avoid a repeat of the crisis in the future. It’s not enough for a company to publish a canned statement or talking points and then hide behind vague explanations and platitudes in hopes that people will forget the incident and move on to the next thing. // Spring 2017


Crisis assessment/planning, crisis management and crisis communication all require a plan—a written plan—that can easily be understood and implemented at a moment’s notice. Any small business that doesn’t have a Crisis Management Plan or Crisis Communication Plan in place can follow these basic steps to get started. Crisis Risk Assessment/Planning—Create a list of all potential threats to the business. Include broad categories of threats and then list potential specific threats by answering the following questions: What can possibly go wrong in this company? If something goes wrong, who will be affected? Of all the bad things that could happen, which of them are most likely to happen, and which are least likely to happen? (Is the company more likely to get robbed or sued? Are there products that can hurt people or merely inconvenience them if there is a malfunction? Is there a lot of customer traffic where people can be targeted or are most customer interactions taking place remotely or online?) Crisis Management—Develop an action plan for the top most likely crisis situations and make a list of all individuals, entities and organizations that need to be contacted when a crisis occurs. This should include first responders (police, EMS, fire department, etc.); executives and management, investors and stockholders, legal representatives, media contacts, and the spokespeople authorized to speak on behalf of the company. Crisis managers are on duty until the crisis is resolved and the organization begins to recover. Crisis Communication—Identify and limit the number of people who can talk to the media and provide official comments, and make sure that they are all saying the same thing. Prepare templates or written documents in advance that can be filled in with specific details when a crisis occurs. Make sure that the affected organization tells its own story and controls the flow of communication about the crisis. Encourage the spokespeople to answer questions truthfully and outline when and how additional information will be provided as it becomes available. Finally, provide details that will assure the media and public that the crisis is being properly addressed and that corrective action is being taken.

During a crisis, it is important to communicate a cohesive and consistent message with stakeholders through all relevant media platforms where you know your message will be heard. Currently, social media moves the fastest and with the greatest sense of urgency, so it’s important to have a social media plan in place to immediately communicate with people. Make sure all user IDs and passwords are easily accessible to individuals authorized to comment on social media sites. Confirm that each social media post is accurate and approved by the crisis communication team to avoid making a bad situation worse. The objectives of any crisis plan are to restore operations to normalcy, to rebuild trust with stakeholders, and to reestablish the organization’s positive reputation. Regardless of the crisis, it can be successfully handled with planning, training and proper plans in place.

V.K. Fields is founder of V.K. Fields & Co. PR PROS, a full-service public relations and copywriting agency in Raleigh, North Carolina. For more information, visit 42

// Spring 2017

business development

A Story on Mentoring –

A Naomi-Ruth Love By Dr. Iris Cooper

Mentoring offers lessons and blessings for the elder and the neophyte. “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16, The Holy Bible). I met Carma 23 years ago at a Wendy’s restaurant. The late Sharon Burks, a seasoned counselor from Franklin County (OH) Children’s Services, arranged the meeting after interviewing me to mentor young women. I was unaware of the responsibilities, but I was clear about what God commanded me to do, in spite of all the emotional baggage of single parenthood I carried with me at the time. While driving home from work one evening, I heard a radio program on youth in foster care moving through emancipation. The young woman speaking was living on her own, and outside of the supervision of the agency. She was 17, but still a child to the challenges of adulthood. She described the loneliness, uncertainty and fear of not having a support group or family to guide her. I listened to the discussion as if my own child was crying for help; I responded immediately by calling the radio station and asking for more information. In a few weeks, I met my Ruth working behind the counter at Wendy’s and her name was Carma. She was extremely quiet during our first meeting and too afraid to look at my face. Sharon had shared her troubled life in the system with me during the interview: group homes, foster parents, multiple schools and abuse, resulting in low self-esteem and fear. Carma was a rising senior in high school with good grades and

the determination to be the first college graduate in her family. I knew I was her Naomi; and prepared to wrestle with whatever came our way in a plan for success together. The early years were rocky, including a doomed teenage marriage, a child, divorce, financial blunders, and the disappointment of betrayal from so-called friends. Trust was a huge obstacle for Carma; too many individuals had broken promises about adoption along the way and failed to stay in touch with her. I often became perturbed by her rejection and anger due to remnants from her past. Carma tried repeatedly to reclaim and rehabilitate her birth family, beckoning the painful realization that she was now different from them. She learned that she could not rescue them from their values or habits, just because she now had created a new lifestyle based upon positive values and goals. Keep in mind that 20 years ago, I was not drama-free either. I was working full time, managing marketing at a fledgling Glory Foods Inc., and encouraging my children to stay calm in light of my divorce litigation. However, the Ruth and the Naomi roles do not require perfection. Transparency, consistency and honesty are critical in mentor-mentee relationships. I knew I had to be the constant factor in Carma’s world; if all the plates were spinning in her life and mine, we would both be out of control. Her reliance on my critical thinking skills helped me to keep my head cool in heated, complicated circumstances. Over the years, we laughed, cried, separated and reunited many times before she really trusted me. As her official “auntie,” she has lived with me several times over // Spring 2017


the years and my children learned to love her as a big sister, but not without the typical sibling squabbles and jealousy. My friends and family know we are a package deal and accept our relationship as my obedience to God. Children’s Services staff members tout us as one of the most successful mentoring pairs they created due to the longevity and outcomes in our relationship. For fun, we both like to shop, go to the movies, travel and work on business projects. Some say we even look like each other, unaware that our relationship developed intentionally and not by blood. Carma beat the odds with a degree in business from Ohio Dominican University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Paralegal Studies from Capital University; less than 10 percent of foster youth graduate from college ( According to, 20 percent will be homeless after age 18; 71 percent of the girls will get pregnant by age 21; and 25 percent will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Fortunately, Carma is gainfully employed and is a strong community servant for various organizations, including recently joining the national board of Foster Care Alumni of


// Spring 2017

America. She knows who she is now, accepts where she has been, and embraces what her mission in life must be. I am very proud of the woman Carma has become. Carma is now prepared to lead and mentor others in the foster care system, and I will be there to help her indefinitely. Mentoring tenders two-fold advantages; the mentor gains the blessing of cultivating success in the mentee, and the mentee reaps the harvest of experience and knowledge from the mentor. There is no finite format for mentoring, and a relationship can be designed to fit almost any circumstance. Women are the nucleus of innumerable relationships and influences worldwide. If knowledge transfers generationally through mentoring, women will learn best practices from credible sources with success in mind. Replicating the Naomi and Ruth relationship creates family and community sustainability. Readers, please consider mentoring a young person today and unleash benefits for humanity for years to come.

Iris Cooper’s career includes leadership positions in the financial services, economic development, community service, entrepreneurship, communication, government, and education industries. She is the owner of “JustAskIris!” an entrepreneurial coaching firm. Iris is a founder of Glory Foods Inc., a multimillion-dollar food marketing company. Iris is recognized nationally as an expert in business strategy and branding, having coached many startups to sustainability. Her newest venture is Finish Your Gloryfied Business Plan Now!, a workshop to foster entrepreneurial success. Iris Ann Cooper (

// Spring 2017


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// Spring 2017

// Spring 2017




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// Spring 2017

American DBE Magazine - Spring 2017  

American DBE Magazine is a quarterly digital and print publication dedicated to increasing business diversity and inclusion in the transport...

American DBE Magazine - Spring 2017  

American DBE Magazine is a quarterly digital and print publication dedicated to increasing business diversity and inclusion in the transport...