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Entrepreneur | Business | Education and Career | Finance | Real Estate | Technology | Insurance

November 2017

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Inspire, Inform & Educate

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123rd Edition

Party with a

Purpose The Black Professionals Alliance, led by Carmen Herrera and Gene Padgett, ready for the 8th Annual Holiday Social & Toy Drive

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INSIDE

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Mayor Brings to Houston a Partnership Program for Startup Companies and City Agencies

08-09

Greater Houston Black Chamber Pinnacle Awards Winners Announced

07

16th Annual Texas High School Jamboree


2  |  November 2017

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November 2017  |  3

Publisher’s Message

MR. D-MARS

d-mars.com is proud to share the success stories of African American businesses and civic and community leaders. We know that success does not always come easy and it is not always measured in money. How have you helped your fellow entrepreneur? Have you supported your locally-owned African American business? Have you donated to a nonprofit that is working in our underserved communities? Questions to think about and actions to take. This month’s cover story highlights the 8th Annual Black Professionals Alliance (BPA) Holiday Social and Toy Drive. This organization, spearheaded by Carmen

Behind the Journal

04

ACCOUNTING MANAGER Eugenie Doualla

PHOTOGRAPHY L.C. Poullard Grady Carter MULTIMEDIA DIRECTOR Andrea Hennekes LAYOUT & GRAPHIC DESIGNER Angel Rosa Project Coordinator Antoniece Portis DISTRIBUTION Booker T. Davis, Jr. Rockie Hayden CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Noel Pinnock Nelson Brand Sports J Thomas Smith Dawn Paul Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner Reggie Collier d-mars.com News Provider

our services

04 Business 04  The Butterfly Effect! 04  Mayor Brings to Houston a Partnership Program for Startup Companies and City Agencies 06  An Initial $1.3 Million In Capital To Support Small Businesses Impacted By Recent Hurricanes

Chief Operating Officer Kimberly Floyd

SENIOR ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES C.T. Foster Tiffany Black

—Woodrow Wilson

contents

Publisher & CEO Keith J. Davis, Sr.

EDITORIAL CONSULTANT Sharon C. Jenkins

"You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand."

Herrera and Gene Padgett, is ready to make Christmas dreams come true for children in the months after Hurricane Harvey. The BPA consists of 23 professional organizations who invite their members to the annual holiday social and ask them to bring an unwrapped toy. The end result is hundreds of toys for kids who may have otherwise gone without this holiday season. What a way to come together for the betterment of our community As always, thank you for your continued support of d-mars.com. When you support us, you are supporting more than just our company; you are supporting the communities in which we live and work. Working together, we can succeed in making positive things happen.

07 COMMUNITY 07  16th Annual Texas High School Jamboree 08  Greater Houston Black Chamber Pinnacle Award Winners Announced!

09-10  In the Business Community… 09  2017 Pinnacle Awards 10  Congratulations 2017 Pinnacle Award Winner She’s Happy Hair! 10  Women in Business 10  Congratulations on Your Retirement Matt Rogers! 12-13  Cover Story 12-13  The Black Professionals Alliance is Making Christmas Dreams Come True for Houston’s Children 14 EDUCATION 14  FTC, State Law Enforcement Partners Announce Nationwide Crackdown on Student Loan Debt Relief Scams

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ADVERTISING | MARKETING MEDIA | COMMUNICATION • Business Journal • Health & Wellness Journal • Community Journal • Black Pages Online Business Directory • Top 50 Black Health, Medical & Wellness Professionals • Top 50 Black Professionals & Entrepreneurs • Top 30 Influential Women of Houston • Top 25 Prime & Subcontractors for Diversity • Business Connection • Business Development • Business Consulting • Graphic Design • Photography • Printing • Web Design • Online & Email Marketing • Public Relations • Social Media • Advertising • Writing • Promotional Marketing

15 Political 15  Elections Have Consequences 16 Insurance 16  NICB: Hurricanes Leave Record Numbers of Vehicles Damaged Warns Buyers to Beware in Weeks and Months Ahead

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18 Real Estate 18  Texas condominium, townhome sales top $5.4 billion, increase from 2016-2017

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20 EDUCATION 20  Gale and Texas Public Libraries Deliver Program to Give Residents Access to Accredited High School Diplomas

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4  |  November 2017 Business

Business

Mayor Brings to Houston a Partnership Program for Startup Companies and City Agencies By d-mars.com News Provider

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The Butterfly Effect! By Noel Pinnock Contributing Writer

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egend has it that the praise for building the cathedral of St. Sofia was not given to the Emperor Constantine, but to Euphrasia, a poor widow who drew from her mattress "a wisp of straw and gave it to the oxen" that drew the marble from the ships. She provided a service that the Emperor couldn't provide. This story underlines the fact that every person can contribute, somehow, in a unique way. Consider that the razor blade is sharp but can't cut a tree. The ax is also strong but can't cut the hair. Every person's contribution is important. Every person's life is a FAIRY tale written by God's fingers. That is why the Scripture in Romans 8:28 is so touching…and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called per his purpose. God can draw good out of each event in our lives. Knowing that God is working everything together for our good brings comfort during difficult times. Therefore, let us ask for grace to: •  brighten the corner where we are, contributing to society in whatever state we find ourselves, •  believe that in every single event, no matter how small or insignificant, God can bring good out of it, and •  know that "the greatest use of life is to spend it on something that will outlast it. Small things have huge effects in our lives and the lives of those we encounter daily. Make no mistakes, we can’ exists in a vacuum and the contributions we bring to bear may seem intestinal but when you examine the big picture, your self-worth and bottom-line is far greater in scope and magnitude than you can ever perceive or believe. I often as fold, if a butterfly brewing in the gulf can affect the overall trajectory path of a hurricane. Many laugh, as though I asked a rhetorical question but my response is usually…wow…you underestimate the power of small wind current. I am not a meteorologist by any stretch of the imagination but the butterfly effect is real. The idea that small causes may have large effects in general and in weather specifically was used from Henri Poincaré to Norbert Wiener. One can't know every little factor

affecting the atmosphere — every flutter of every butterfly can, indeed, change the course of a Category 5 Hurricane. Each flap of a butterfly's wings exerts a pressure on surrounding air molecules to thrust the insect upward. Each flap causes a tiny change in the air pressure around the butterfly, but this fluctuation is insignificant compared to the air's total pressure, which is about 100,000 times larger. Changes in air pressure are one of the key factors involved in changing the weather. Remember this, for every one (1) person you touch, you will impact the lives of 7,000 individuals over the course of a lifetime. To that end we, must realize that we have the potential to impact thousands of lives as we embrace the hymn of hope written and scored by James Arthur:

ayor Sylvester Turner announces today that the City of Houston will join the highly successful national Startup in Residence (STIR) program that connects government agencies with start-up companies to create technology solutions for civic challenges. The city is looking to start-ups for solutions related to Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts and resiliency. These challenges will be refined and published in the coming months, and startups will be selected in early 2018. “I am thrilled to be joining the national expansion of STIR, a unique program designed to improve government services and foster economic development,” said Mayor Turner. “As the recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey continue, I am committed to harnessing all available tools and leveraging all potential partners for Houston’s comeback.”

Mayor Sylvester Turner

#getatit!

STIR began as an experiment in 2014 in San Francisco and has expanded to nearby Oakland, San Leandro, and West Sacramento. Projects there have included work on issues such as streamlining the foster care application process, creating a mobile solution to support early education outreach and enrollment, and developing tools to assess the damage in the aftermath of a disaster. This entrepreneurial approach to solving civic challenges aligns with Mayor Turner’s goals of modernizing government and building a vibrant startup community. Last year, the mayor commissioned a Technology & Innovation Task Force to help foster a robust technology and start-up economy. He also created the Mayor’s Office of Innovation to work with the tech and research community on new, inventive solutions for the city’s challenges. The 16-week program offers education for government and startup staff in areas including partnership, open data, civic technology trends, the technology marketplace, and new methods of product development and procurement.

SOURCE: www.noelpinnock.com

Source: www.houstontx.gov

There's a song in every silence, seeking word and melody. There's a dawn in every darkness bringing hope to you and me. From the past, will come the future; what it holds a mystery. Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

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November 2017  |  5

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6  |  November 2017 Business

An Initial $1.3 Million In Capital To Support Small Businesses Impacted By Recent Hurricanes To download Groupon's top-rated mobile apps, visit www.groupon.com/ mobile. To search for great deals or subscribe to Groupon emails, visit www. groupon.com. To learn more about the company’s merchant solutions and how to work with Groupon, visit www.grou pon.com/merchant.

LiftFund partners with corporate leaders JPMorgan Chase & Co., Groupon and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses to provide relief to impacted businesses

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mall businesses make up over eighty percent of a local economy’s vibrancy. The number of businesses impacted by the hurricanes that have hit the U.S. coasts is still unknown, but the work to rebuild communities is immediate. LiftFund, a non-profit business lender, with the generous support of JPMorgan Chase, Groupon and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses has established a relief fund to support small business affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. With an initial $1.3 million in capital, including $1 million from JPMorgan Chase’s Small Business Forward initiative, LiftFund’s hurricane relief loan fund will help small businesses along the Texas Gulf Coast and Florida rebuild after the devastation caused by the September hurricanes. LiftFund’s hurricane relief loan fund has reached $1.3 million in capital to provide a combination of products and support services, including low to zero interest loans to small business owners affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. “For Houston to fully recover, our small businesses must remain strong engines of economic opportunity,” said Nataly Marks, Managing Director for JPMorgan Chase in Houston. “JPMorgan Chase is proud to stand with LiftFund an experienced microlender with a strong track record - and all the small businesses seeking to rebuild after Harvey.” “It’s critical that when we rebuild our communities, we rebuild for homes, for corporations, and for small businesses. With our partners, we are here to support small businesses in the wake of the hurricanes. We know timing is of the essence, and we are ready to help them rebuild and reopen with our hurricane relief loan fund,” said Janie Barrera, LiftFund President and CEO. “Small businesses are the backbone of the communities they serve, and many absorbed significant damage from the recent hurricanes,” said Groupon CEO Rich Williams. “The local impact of shuttered businesses will be felt long after the initial disaster. Helping businesses with muchneeded access to capital is a key way we can help these communities along the road to recovery.” “We’re proud to partner with LiftFund, a longstanding lending partner in the 10,000 Small Businesses program, to ensure that small business owners affected by the storm receive both immediate help as well as longer term support that will help them recover and rebuild,” said Margaret Anadu, Goldman Sachs Managing Direc-

AboutGoldman GoldmanSachs Sachs10,000 10,000 About Small Businesses Small Businesses

To learn more and apply for a hurricane relief loan, visit our website. www.liftfund.com or give us a call at 888.215.2373 tor. “This grant will supplement Goldman Sachs’ overall response to these storms including over $1 million in donations as well as employee volunteer initiatives benefiting a range of nonprofit organizations in Houston and Florida.” LiftFund has historically supported small businesses through similar catastrophes like Hurricanes Katrina (2005), Ike (2008), Sandy (2012), developing specific products and services to alleviate the needs of impacted small businesses. Small business owners in Houston, along the Texas Gulf Coast and Florida can visit www.liftfund.com/hurricanerelief-resources to learn about products and support services specifically tied to LiftFund’s hurricane relief efforts. Or, impacted business owners may call LiftFund at (888) 215-2373 or inquire by email at harveyrelief@liftfund.com. “LiftFund and our corporate partners stand strong with the small businesses and our special assistance programs aim to help these business owners get back on their feet,” said Barrera. To learn more about LiftFund’s clients and keep up with the rebuilding process in their communities, please visit our blog post: Communities Rebuild after Harvey.

AboutJPMorgan JPMorganChase Chase&&Co. Co. About JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is

a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2.6 trillion and operations worldwide. The Firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing, and asset management. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, JPMorgan Chase & Co. serves millions of consumers in the United States and many of the world's most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients under its J.P. Morgan and Chase brands. Information about JPMor gan Chase & Co. is available at www.jp morganchase.com. Follow us on Twitter @Chase and @ChaseSmallBiz, and at www.facebook.com/chase.

AboutGroupon Groupon About Groupon (NASDAQ: GRPN) is building the daily habit in local commerce, offering a vast mobile and online marketplace where people discover and save on amazing things to do, see, eat and buy. By enabling realtime commerce across local businesses, travel destinations, consumer products and live events, shoppers can find the best a city has to offer. Groupon is redefining how small businesses attract and retain customers by providing them with customizable and scalable marketing tools and services to profitably grow their businesses.

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The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. is a leading global investment banking, securities and investment management firm that provides a wide range of financial services to a substantial and diversified client base that includes corporations, financial institutions, governments and individuals. Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses is based on the broadly held view of leading experts that greater access to a combination of education, capital, and support services best addresses barriers to growth for small businesses. 10,000 Small Businesses is guided by an Advisory Council cochaired by Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd C. Blankfein, Bloomberg L.P. founder, president and CEO, and 108th Mayor of the City of New York Michael R. Bloomberg, Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, and the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City’s Dr. Michael Porter. To date nationally, 10,000 Small Businesses has reached more than 6,300 small business owners across 14 US education sites, and has deployed over 1,000 loans to 870 additional businesses. Approximately 70 percent of participants have reported increasing their revenues just six months after graduating and approximately 50 percent of participants have reported creating net new jobs in this same time period. 85 percent of program scholars do business with one or more 10,000 Small Businesses alumni.

AboutLiftFund LiftFund About Established in 1994 in San Antonio, LiftFund is a non-profit financial and business support service organization that helps entrepreneurs strengthen their businesses, stabilize and increase their incomes, create employment and contribute to the economic revitalization of their communities. LiftFund has the nation’s largest microlender portfolio and is committed to providing capital to entrepreneurs who do not have access to loans from commercial sources. Since its inception, LiftFund has made over 19,000 loans totaling more than $250 million. LiftFund operates in 13 states – Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. To learn more about LiftFund visit www.liftfund.com.


November 2017  |  7 COMMUNITY

16th Annual Texas High School Jamboree

The Best of Thanksgiving Basketball Where Will You Be?

is to provide a positive environment for academics and the game of basketball for young men and women. He recognized early on the value of using basketball as a tool to further one’s education. Nelson played point guard, on scholarship, for Texas College, winning two back to back National College Championships. He earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Prairie View A&M University. “In sports, the principle of working as a team is essential to achieving championship success,” says President and CEO of d-mars.com, Keith J. Davis, Sr. “With this partnership between d-mars.com, TYBL, Hunt & Hunt, Boost Mobile and adidas, we are setting out to show the community that there are ways to achieve your goals in life, whether it is through entrepreneurship or athletics. Strong team players make some of the best leaders." For more information or to get involved with Nelson Brand Sports, please email rick@ nelsonbrandsports.com or visit www.nelsonbrandsports.com.

By Nelson Brand Sports

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his month like every year d-mars.com is teaming up with the Nelson Brand Sports organization to sponsor the Thanksgiving High School Basketball Rivalry Week; which kicks off with Texas High School Jamboree, now hosted at one site: Episcopal High School on November 24-25, 2017. The Texas High School Jamboree was created as a platform for studentathletes who are not usually afforded the opportunity to be seen by college coaches. This event gives athletes the chance to compete at a high level for college scholarships in front of college coaches and media outlets. Texas High School Jamboree is a full two days of 43 top-tier high school basketball programs at one high school location. As President of Nelson Brand Sports, Rick Nelson’s mission

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8  |  November 2017 COMMUNITY

Greater Houston Black Chamber Pinnacle Award Winners Announced! O

n Saturday, October 21 the Greater Houston Black Chamber (GHBC) hosted the 23rd annual Pinnacle Awards at the regal Marriott Marquis. The black tie gala hosted over 600 guests including Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Honoring local businesses run by African-American entrepreneurs that have achieved the height of success and positively impacted their communities, GHBC's Board Chair Courtney Johnson Rose ushered in the evening's festivities and awarded the highly anticipated accolades.

From this year's impressive finalists the winners are: She's Happy Hair, Sterling Staffing Solutions, Taylor Construction LLC, and The Imani School. She's Happy Hair has reached international acclaim celebrating 5 years of success in providing quality hair products. Not only has Warren Broadnax built the company into the #1 supplier of virgin hair in the US, She's Happy Hair gives back to the community by supporting women and making them feel beautiful. Each year they host "The Happy Experience", a day filled with pamperingmassages, hair treatments, food, and entertainment-as well as the chance to audition for the company's next national television commercial.

Meanwhile, twin brothers Stephen and Sterling, who had recently served in the US army, were combining their two specialties, business management and clinical expertise, into the company that is now Sterling Staffing Solutions. Founded in 2011, the company has now grown to over 800 licensed clinicians who have completed over 4,567 rehabilitative visits in disciplines from occupational therapy to laboratory technicians and medical specialists. According to Kelley Taylor, at Taylor Construction Management LLC "We want to make our customers' businesses our absolute top priority with the hope that they will in turn value our ethics, dedication, innovation, and industry knowledge when they have future project opportunities." The husband and wife team, Troi and Kelley Taylor, head the global construction company that blends technical acumen with leadership capabilities to creatively respond to any project need. Based in Houston,

they have developed a multi-million dollar, award-winning construction firm that drives the economy and gives back to the community. "Since TCM was founded in 2011, we have been devoted to breaking down barriers as African-American entrepreneurs," said Kelley Taylor, CEO of Taylor Construction Management. Troi added, "We are honored to lead the way for other emerging minorityowned businesses who stand out among the competition by executing projects to perfection."

With more than 30 years of experience as an educator, Patricia Hogan channeled her knowledge into creating The Imani School. What began as a preschool for 25 children has become the largest independent private, predominately African American school in the nation, serving students from preschool through eighth grade. For her commitment to improving the lives of children and youth, Patricia has won many awards and can now add a Pinnacle to that list. The Upstart Award winner is Valesco Raymond and Solan James of Kaliber Choice LLC. Combining traditional concepts with leading technologies, they provide e-commerce and fulfillment solutions with a strong focus on innovation.

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Other honorees included Tom Joyner who received the Lifetime Achievement Award, Carl McGowan for Advocate of the Year, and Marlon Mitchell for the Mickey Leland Public Service Award. "It was an honor to be in a room filled with so many members of our community who have really strived to make a difference," said Courtney Johnson Rose. "Every year our awards committee faces a challenge only choosing 4 winners but this year may have been the toughest yet!" The evening was hosted by Tamar Davis, best known for co-lead vocals on Prince's Grammy-nominated "Beautiful, Loved and Blessed", against a backdrop of music by Indiepocket, a local favorite band. For a complete list of upcoming GHBC events please visit: www.GHBCC.com.


November 2017  |  9

In the Business Community…

2017 Pinnacle Awards

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10  |  November 2017

In the Business Community…

Congratulations 2017 Pinnacle Award Winner

She’s Happy Hair!

Women in Business

Congratulations on Your Retirement Matt Rogers!

Firefighter Matt Rogers retires after 31 years with the Houston Fire Department. He celebrated this momentous occasion with family, friends and community leaders at the Power Center.

The Greater Houston Black Chamber packed out their Women in Business Conference at the Buffalo Soldier National Museum. The room was full of Houston female business leaders. The day consisted of workshops, panels, keynote discussions and relationship building.

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November 2017  |  11

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12  |  November 2017

When you walk into to the BPA Holiday Social you will immediately feel the energy in the room. To have over 1,000 of Houston’s Black Professionals gathered in one place is very powerful! It shows the strength we collectively have and the impact in how we can make a difference. Not only for the children that benefit from the community generosity, but the influence we can have here in Houston together. Our goal is to make Houston, TX the model for Black Professionals making a difference!

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November 2017  |  13

Making Christmas Dreams Come True for Houston’s Children By Sharon C. Jenkins Editorial Consultant

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he Black Professionals Alliance (BPA) will present the 8th Annual Holiday Social and Toy Drive at the Revention Music Center on November 30th at 6:00 pm. This event started out with four organizations and has blossomed to over twenty in the past eight years. Literally thousands of children have received toys as a result of the efforts of this conglomerate of professional black associations and organizations. Carmen Herrera of National Sales Network (NSN) and Gene Padgett of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) spearhead this event, and together they form the Black Professionals Alliance (BPA). I had the privilege of interviewing both Herrera and Padgett about this noteworthy event for Houston’s children. Jenkins – How did the BPA and the toy drive start? Padgett – Carmen and I had an idea nine years ago, we looked at our respective organizations and thought we would get more bang for our buck if we combined our organizations to do events together. So we started with four organizations NSN, NABA, the Black HR Professionals, and the Black MBA’s. Our first event was a networking event. That event turned out to be very successful, so we did a Christmas event. The toy drive became a part of that initiative. From that event, every year we have added more organizations. The BPA started with four organizations and now we are up to 23. Herrera – The reason we started the collaboration is even though we have our own separate mission with sales, accountants, doctors, etc., at the end of the day we all have a common goal and that is to serve the community. You know we thought, why not pool our resources during times like the holidays and when people are in need in order to accomplish our missions at a greater level.

Jenkins – How do you see this expanding in the future? Padgett – The evolution of our organization is to create more opportunities for collaboration. Not just for events, but for projects that benefit the community or coming together on contracts and things like that. So we put all these professionals in a room together to allow them to interact and mix and mingle. There is a lot of cross-referencing of goods and services between us. There’s a couple of things; we do want to grow the business aspect of all of us coming together. We have been talking with the Houston Black Chamber of Commerce about creating an infrastructure to try to make that happen. But as far as something on the charitable side, we talked about

doing an event midyear, be it a professional clothing drive or a back-to-school drive, where we bring everyone together to benefit the community. Jenkins – How has Hurricane Harvey affected your mission to serve the community? Herrera – For me, it has not affected us in a negative way at all. Like everything else that is happening in our great city, Hurricane Harvey has been an incentive for everyone, professional organizations included, to do more. We expect to accomplish more. Last year we had approximately 1,100 people and this year we expect to double that. We are expecting a grand event this year because of Hurricane Harvey. We know that there are a lot of children and families that are out there suffering and really won’t have the kind of holiday season they would have had prior to the storm. Fortunately, the positive outcome of the storm is that it may have inspired us to do better. Jenkins - What organizations receive the toys? Padgett – We actually partner with other charitable organizations in the community. We donate to four or five organizations. The Blue Triangle Multicultural Center has an event the following weekend and we also support The Bread of Life Inc., The Center for Children and Women, and Toys for Tots. So we genuinely choose organizations that already have an infrastructure for disseminating toys and that’s who we partner with. Jenkins - How many children have you made smile and dance with joy on Christmas Day? Herrera – Wow, each year we probably collect 700 toys. Padgett - I would say over 5000 toys in the eight years we have been in existence.

Michael Lipford

Fred Guilbeaux

Jenkins – Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about the toy drive? Herrera – We would be remiss if we did not mention two of our colleagues that supported this cause in the early years, Michael Lipford of NSN (my predecessor) and Fred Guilbeaux of NABA. Both of them have played a major role in the success of this event. Padgett – If there are still displaced families and children that are in need, we would like to put them on our benefactor list. Please feel free to contact me at genepadgett@att.net, or Carmen at carmenherrera@cmhcwealth.com. Jenkins – Thank you.

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14  |  November 2017 EDUCATION

FTC, State Law Enforcement Partners Announce Nationwide Crackdown on Student Loan Debt Relief Scams Scammers made false promises and charged illegal upfront fees of more than $95 million By d-mars.com News Provider

FTC, State Law Enforcement Partners Announce Nationwide Crackdown on Student Loan Debt Relief Scams Scammers made false promises and charged illegal upfront fees of more than $95 million

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he Federal Trade Commission, along with 11 states and the District of Columbia, today announced "Operation Game of Loans," the first coordinated federal-state law enforcement initiative targeting decep-

tive student loan debt relief scams. This nationwide crackdown encompasses 36 actions by the FTC and state attorneys general against scammers alleged to have used deception and false promises of relief to take more than $95 million in illegal upfront fees from American consumers over a number of years. Student loan debt affects more than 42 million Americans and, with outstanding balances of more than $1.4 trillion, student loans are the second largest segment of U.S. debt, after mortgages. Operation Game of Loans includes seven FTC actions: five new cases, one new judgment in favor of the FTC, and a preliminary injunction entered in a

case filed earlier this year. The agency alleges that the defendants in these actions charged consumers illegal upfront fees, falsely promised to help reduce or forgive student loan debt burdens, and pretended to be affiliated with the government or loan servicers, in violation of the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule and the FTC Act. Operation Game of Loans also includes law enforcement actions by Colorado , Florida , Illinois , Kansas , Maryland , North Carolina, North Dakota , Oregon , Pennsylvania , Texas , Washington , and the District of Columbia . "Winter is coming for debt relief scams that prey on hardworking Americans

struggling to pay back their student loans," said Maureen K. Ohlhausen, FTC Acting Chairman. "The FTC is proud to work with state partners to protect consumers from these scams, help them learn how to spot a scam, and let them know where to go for legitimate help." In addition to its state partners, the FTC has been working closely with the U.S. Department of Education's office of Federal Student Aid to raise awareness about student loan debt relief schemes, and ensure that borrowers know to visit StudentAid.gov/repay for information about existing repayment and forgiveness programs available to them at no cost.

NEW Scams LIST Five New FTC Actions Halt Scams The FTC recently filed five new cases against 30 defendants as part of Operation Game of Loans. In each action, the FTC obtained temporary restraining orders (TROs) that halted the scams and froze defendants' assets. The Commission vote authorizing staff to file the complaint in each action was 2-0. •  A1 DocPrep, Inc.: In an action filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the FTC charged that Los Angelesbased A1 DocPrep took at least $6 million from consumers through unlawful student loan debt relief and mortgage assistance relief schemes. •  American Student Loan Consolidators (ASLC): In an action filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, the FTC charged that ASLC, d/b/a ASLC Processing, and BBND Marketing, LLC, d/b/a United Processing Center, United SL Processing, and United Student Loan Processing, and principals Daniel Upbin and Patrick O'Deady bilked student loan borrowers out of at least $11 million by falsely promising loan forgiveness, lowered monthly payments, and reduced interest rates. •  Alliance Document Preparation: In an action filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the FTC charged that Los Angeles-based Alliance Document Preparation,

How Howto toAvoid AvoidStudent Student Loan LoanDebt DebtRelief ReliefScams Scams To help consumers avoid falling victim to such fraud, the FTC has updated its consumer education related to student loan debt relief scams at ftc. gov/StudentLoans. As a follow-up to the sweep of law enforcement actions, the FTC later this month will be holding a Twitter chat with state attorneys general and a Facebook Live session

d/b/a EZ Doc Preps, Grads Aid, and First Document Aid, took more than $20 million from consumers by charging illegal upfront fees of up to $1,000. The defendants deceptively marketed their purported services primarily on social media platforms like Facebook. •  Student Debt Doctor (SDD): In an action filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, the FTC charged that Fort Lauderdale-based SDD and its owner, Gary Brent White, Jr., collected at least $7 million from consumers struggling to pay student loan debt. •  Student Debt Relief Group (SDRG): In an action filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the FTC charged that Los Angeles-based M&T Financial Group and American Counseling Center Corp., d/b/a Student Debt Relief Group, SDRG, StuDebt, Student Loan Relief Counselors, SLRC, and Capital Advocates, and principal Salar Tahour bilked at least $7.3 million from consumers struggling to repay their student loans.

Two New FTC Law Enforcement Developments Operation Game of Loans also includes two pending FTC actions against 11 additional student loan debt relief scammers, in which

with staff attorney experts on ways to avoid student loan debt relief scams. Consumers should remember that only scammers promise fast loan forgiveness, and that scammers often pretend to be affiliated with the government. And consumers should never pay an upfront fee for help, and should not share their FSA ID—a username and password used to log in to U.S. Department of Education websites— with anyone.

federal courts recently entered significant orders. •  Student Aid Center: On August 31, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted summary judgment against defendant Ramiro Fernandez-Moris in a joint action filed by the FTC and the State of Florida. The Court found that defendants' unlawful student loan debt relief enterprise took more than $35 million from student loan borrowers by enticing consumers to sign up for services using misleading and false claims. •  Strategic Student Solutions: On May 26, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida entered a stipulated preliminary injunction in the FTC's case against Strategic Student Solutions, freezing defendants' assets, halting the organization's student loan debt relief operation, and appointing a receiver to control the business for the remainder of the litigation. The FTC alleged that the defendants took more than $11 million from consumers by falsely promising to reduce or eliminate their student loan debt and offering them nonexistent credit repair services.

Consumers can apply for loan deferments, forbearance, repayment and forgiveness or discharge programs directly through the U.S. Department of Education or their loan servicer at no cost; these programs do not require the assistance of a third-party company or payment of application fees. For federal student loan repayment options, visit StudentAid.gov/repay. For private student loans, contact the loan servicer directly.

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The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (3824357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources. SOURCE: http://www.ftc.gov


November 2017  |  15 Political

Elections Have Consequences By J Thomas Smith Contributing Writer

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lections have consequences. Every election has consequences and there is always a cost. In the last election your vote or your failure to vote has given us today’s situation -- locally and nationally. If you are happy, great! If not, “you must change for a change.” That change could be choosing your candidates more carefully, deliberating the issues, the pros and the cons before you go to the polls and pull that lever. For others, it may be as simple as deciding to get registered and care enough to exercise your right to vote. Care enough to get educated about the significance of the vote, and the cost paid for you to have the right to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been called the single most effective piece of civil rights legislation ever passed by Congress. It was effective because it removed barriers to the ballot box such as literacy tests and poll taxes and other barriers such as requiring property ownership to vote, or the requirement of passing a morality test. The original grandfather clause. Years before the Voting Rights Act of 1965, there was an actual “grandfather clause.” Under a grandfather clause, one could not vote unless they could prove that their grandfather had voted. The purpose of that clause was to exclude black people from voting since their grandfathers were most likely to have been slaves, who were not eligible to vote. Women

were not allowed to vote. The 1965 Act removed many barriers to the ballot box. New barriers to the ballot box. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court and the Department of Justice have allowed many states to reintroduce barriers to the ballot box. Key portions of the Voting Rights Act have been struck down by the Court and many state legislatures have passed hundreds of laws designed to restrict your voting rights and limit your access to the ballot box. However, many of us have placed barriers in our own way. The excuses are many, but no matter the excuse, failure to vote has a cost. The consequences of your vote. The cost could be higher taxes. The cost could be what I call “micro gerrymandering”, where the lines are drawn such that the

politicians to choose the voters who will vote for them rather than the voters choosing the politicians that will represent them. Those same politicians become so confident of being reelected, that they effectively, do very little except raise money and campaign for reelection. Then there is the cost of gridlock. The lack of significant, meaningful legislation that positively impacts the conditions of America as a whole, rather than “the Party”, has made many voters so cynical that they do not vote at all. They don’t even think about it. But there are costs for voting and not voting, obvious and subtle. The Cost of Elections. More than 30 countries have compulsory voting. In Australia, for example, the law says it is every voter’s duty to vote. If a voter fails to vote, without a valid and sufficient reason, they will be fined. The first offense is $20, and each subsequent offense is $50.00. Electors (voters) who do not pay the fine could lose their driver's license. Yes, elections do have a cost. What is the cost to our democracy? What is the cost to you state or city? What is the cost to your community? What is the cost to your family? What is your cost for failing to vote? Think about it. J Thomas Smith is host of “Sunday Morning Live” on “The People’s Station”KMJQ/Majic 102.1 (9-11 cst). He is an attorney, author, keynote speaker and mental health consultant. Your comments are welcome at jtsmith@radio-one.com orjtsmith@worldfamousradio. com. Follow on Twitter @drjtsmith102 onfacebook.com/ jthomas.smith.12 and instagram.com/drjtsmith102. ©2017 J Thomas Smith

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16  |  November 2017

NICB:

Insurance

Hurricanes Leave Record Numbers of Vehicles Damaged Warns Buyers to Beware in Weeks and Months Ahead

By d-mars.com News Provider

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looded vehicles have finally stopped arriving at the Royal Purple Raceway east of Houston. Some 23,000 now await processing and retitling to be auctioned off for parts or to be scrapped. That is just one of several insurance industry salvage locations where more than 422,000 insured vehicles damaged by Harvey have been taken for processing. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), these totals surpass the number of claims that resulted from Hurricane Katrina (approx. 300,000) and from Superstorm Sandy (250,500). Experience the interactive Multichannel News Release http://prn.to/2hykoer In addition, more than 215,000 claims have been filed following damage to vehicles from Hurricane Irma in Florida. These insured vehicles will be processed and rebranded with a salvage title and sold at online auctions to dismantlers who will save usable parts or have the vehicle crushed and sold for scrap. The VIN numbers are entered into the NICB's VINCheck database, which is free to the public and will indicate the vehicle has been damaged and branded. They are also entered into the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). Unfortunately, owners of even more vehicles no

4.  Remove spare tire and inspect area for water damage 5.  Check the engine compartment for mud or indicators of submergence 6.  Check under the dashboard for mud or moisture 7.  Inspect headlights and taillights for signs of water 8.   Check the operation of electrical components 9.  Check for mold or a musty odor Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling tollfree 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422), texting keyword "fraud" to TIP411 (847411) or submitting a form on our website. Or, download the NICB Fraud Tips app on your iPhone or Android device.

longer carry comprehensive coverage that covers flood damage and those vehicles are not part of the system. The owner should request a new branded title, but that may not happen. In fact, many flooded vehicles that weren't insured will be cleaned up and sold with no indication of any damage. Some unscrupulous buyers will also buy a branded vehicle, clean it up, and take it to another state where they will obtain a "clean" title and sell it with no warning that it has been flooded. Anyone looking to buy a vehicle in the weeks and months ahead should be on the lookout for hidden flood damage. Here are some tips. 1.  Check vehicle carpeting for water damage 2.  Check for rust on screws or other metallic items 3.  Inspect upholstery and seat belts for water stains

About the National Insurance Crime Bureau: Headquartered in Des Plaines, Ill., the NICB is the nation's leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to preventing, detecting and defeating insurance fraud and vehicle theft through data analytics, investigations, training, legislative advocacy and public awareness. The NICB is supported by more than 1,100 property and casualty insurance companies and self-insured organizations. NICB member companies wrote over$436 billion in insurance premiums in 2016, or more than 79 percent of the nation's property/casualty insurance. That includes more than 94 percent ($202 billion) of the nation's personal auto insurance. To learn more visit www.nicb.org. SOURCE: www.nicb.org

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November 2017  |  17

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18  |  November 2017 Real Estate

Texas condominium, townhome sales top

$5.4 billion, increase from 2016-2017

Texas Association of Realtors releases Texas Condominium Sales Report By d-mars.com News Provider

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exas condominium and townhome sales exceeded $5.4 billion and posted strong gains in sales volume between August 2016 and July 2017, according to the Texas Condominium Sales Report released today by the Texas Association of Realtors. "The Texas condominium market has been one of the fastest-growing segments of the housing market this year," said Vicki Fullerton, chairman of the Texas Association of Realtors. "These property types are increasingly preferred among many Texas homebuyers, as they often are less expensive to purchase, require less upkeep and provide closer access to their work, schools and essential services." Volume From August 2016 to July 2017, the sales dollar volume of condominiums and townhomes sold in Texas was $5,411,886,686

$3,329,759,930 in condominium sales

$2,082,126,756 in townhome sales.

From August 2016 to July 2017, the sales dollar volume of condominiums and townhomes sold in Texas was $5,411,886,686, with $3,329,759,930 in condominium sales and $2,082,126,756 in townhome sales. Texas condominium sales increased 8.6 percent to 14,656 sales and townhome sales increased 5.1 percent to 8,134 sales during this time frame, making condominiums and townhomes one of the fastest-growing segments of the Texas housing market in 2017. Increased Texas condominium sales increased 8.6 percent to 14,656 sales and townhome sales Condominium increased 5.1 percent 8.6 % to 8,134 sales during 14,656 this time frame, making sales condominiums and townhomes one of the fastest-growing segments of the Texas housing market in 2017.

Townhome 5.1 % 8,134 sales

for condominiums and $136 for townhomes in Texas. The housing inventory for Texas condominiums and townhomes grew to 4.9 months of inventory as of July 2017, which is an increase of 0.1 months for condominiums and a 0.6 month increase for townhomes. In the first seven months of the year, Texas condominiums and townhomes spent an average of 61 and 54 days on the market, respectively. "Rapid population growth across the state has turned cities surrounding our major metro areas into job and development hubs, creating a need for condominium and townhome development outside of urban centers that did not exist before," said Jim Gaines, chief economist with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. "As this growth continues over the next decade, higher density options such as condominiums and townhomes will be essential to maintaining affordability in our cities." Fullerton concluded, "Texas homebuyers interested in buying a condominium or townhome are encouraged to work with a Texas Realtor in advance of starting the home search process, as many of these properties can come with additional restrictions and requirements that do not apply to single-family homes. A Texas Realtor can help condominium buyers know what to look for and explore all options before making a decision."

About Aboutthe theTexas TexasCondominium Condominium Sales Report Data for the Texas Condominium Sales Report is provided by the Data Relevance Project, a partnership among the Texas Association of REALTORS® and local REALTOR® associations throughout the state. Data analysis is provided by the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. The report analyzes condominium and townhome sales data from July 2016 through July 2017 for the Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio Metropolitan Statistical Areas. To view the report in its entirety, visit TexasRealEstate.com.

Aboutthe theTexas TexasAssociation Associationof ofREALTORS® REALTORS® About

Sales prices also increased for condominiums and townhomes throughout 2016 and into 2017. Statewide, the year-to-date median sales price as of July 2017 was $179,900 for condominiums and $226,675 for townhomes, which is an annual increase of 9.0 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively. The average price-per-square foot during this time frame was $178

With more than 110,000 members, the Texas Association of REALTORS® is a professional membership organization that represents all aspects of real estate in Texas. We advocate on behalf of Texas REALTORS® and private-property owners to keep homeownership affordable, protect private-property rights, and promote public policies that benefit homeowners. Visit TexasRealEstate.com to learn more. SOURCE: http://TexasRealEstate.com

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November 2017  |  19

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20  |  November 2017 EDUCATION

Gale and Texas Public Libraries Deliver Program to Give Residents Access to Accredited High School Diplomas

Career Online High School now offered at five public libraries across the state, in the cities of Dallas, Houston, Frisco, Grapevine and Sulphur Springs By d-mars.com News Provider

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ive Texas libraries have partnered with Gale, a leading provider of library resources and a Cengage company, to offer the opportunity to earn an accredited high school diploma and career certificate at public libraries across the state. Qualifying Texas adults can enroll in the Career Online High School program starting today through the following public library systems: Houston, Dallas, Frisco, Grapevine and Sulphur Springs. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2.34 million (17.3 percent) Texas adults over the age of 25, do not have a high school diploma. In May 2016, El Paso Public Library was the first library in Texas to offer the program. They currently have 50 students enrolled, 6 students who have already completed the program and expect more than 15 students to graduate in April 2018. "The Houston Public Library is very excited to be a part of this collaboration to bring Career Online High School program to Texas," states Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, Director of the Houston Public Library. "We continuously strive to provide critical tools to help our community achieve success in their lives. Enabling adults to earn their high school diploma opens new doors of opportunity that otherwise may have been permanently closed. This resource will not only benefit individuals, but will also benefit our entire community." Participating library systems throughout the state will award scholarships for Career Online High School to qualified learners looking to earn high school diplomas and advance their careers. Each student enrolled in the program is paired with an academic coach who offers ongoing guidance and encouragement, evaluates performance and connects

the learner with the resources needed to demonstrate mastery of the course material. "Nearly a quarter of our neighbors in Dallas lack a high school diploma," said Dallas Public Library Director, Jo Giudice. "Career Online High School not only gives them the chance to graduate, but also provides career training that prepares students to take the next step." Classes are supported by state board certified instructors, and students have 24/7 access to the online learning platform. Coursework begins in one of eight high-growth, high-demand career fields across a wide spectrum—ranging from office management to food and hospitality—before progressing to the core academic subjects. Students have 18 months to complete the program but many have graduated sooner (10 months on average) by transferring in previously earned high school credits. "Earning an accredited high school diploma paves the pathway for adults to advance their education and improve their employment outlook," said Paul Gazzolo, senior vice president and general manager at Gale. "Graduates of Career Online High School not only walk away with job and academic skills, but also the confidence necessary to achieve their education and life goals. We're proud to partner with Texas public libraries in this effort to provide resources and training to the Texas community in a welcoming and supportive environment." Texas residents interested in learning more about the program can visit:www.careeronlinehs.gale.com/tx.

tion and career training, and Smart Horizons Career Online Education in an effort to provide affordable, career-based online education opportunities for the millions of adults in the United States without high school diplomas. In 2014, the program was adapted for the public library market by Gale, a Cengage company.

About AboutCengage Cengageand and Gale Gale Cengage is the education and technology company built for learners. The company serves the higher education, K-12, professional, library and workforce training markets worldwide. Gale, a Cengage company, provides libraries with original and curated content, as well as the modern research tools and technology that are crucial in connecting libraries to learning, and learners to libraries. For more than 60 years, Gale has partnered with libraries around the world to empower the discovery of knowledge and insights – where, when, and how people need it. Gale has 500 employees globally with its main operations in Farmington Hills, Michigan. For more information, please visit: www.gale.com.

About Aboutthe theHouston Houston Public Public Library Library The Houston Public Library (HPL) operates 35 neighborhood libraries, four HPL Express Libraries, a Central Library, the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, The African American Library at the Gregory School, and the Parent Resource Library located in the Children's Museum of Houston. Serving more than seven million customers per year in person and online, HPL is committed to excellent customer service and equitable access to information and programs by providing library customers with free use of a diverse collection of printed materials and electronic resources, Internet, laptop and computer use, and a variety of database and reference resources with live assistance online 24/7.

About DallasPublic PublicLibrary Library bout Dallas

AboutCareer CareerOnline OnlineHigh HighSchool School About Career Online High School was developed in 2012 through a partnership by ed2go, a division of Cengage that provides students with online continuing educa-

Dallas Public Library serves the city of Dallas with 29 locations throughout the city and with online access to books, audiobooks, movies and music. The library offers many opportunities for lifelong learning from our early childhood storytimes to S.T.E.A.M. programming for k12 to adult education. The library offers adult basic reading, English as a Second Language, and High School Equivalency classes at no cost to the learner. For more information about adult education programs, please contact: 214-671-8291. SOURCE: http://www.cengage.com

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November 2017  |  21

T H E

E X P E R T

N E TW O R K

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22  |  November 2017

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November 2017  |  23

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d-mars.com Business Journal 123