Business group provides a state of opportunity

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Between Alexander “Nick” Nichols and Charles “Chuck” M. Powell, more than 60 years of service has been dedicated to assisting women, minority and disadvantaged businesses within the region. In appreciation of their many years of service, commitment and dedication, the MWDBE Governmental Committee recognized the pair for their great work during their tenth annual conference for Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises. The theme was “A State of Opportunity.”

HappyToBeNoticed
HAPPY TO BE NOTICED—Charles Powell of the URA and Alexander Nichols of the WPMSDC pledge to stay committed to their cause of assisting MWBEs.

While introducing the Hall of Fame Program, Paula B. Castleberry, minority women business coordinator, Pittsburgh Public Schools, likened Nichols and Powell’s work to the Pittsburgh Public School’s motto, “Excellence for all.” She explained that each year at least two individuals and or organizations that have demonstrated a strong commitment to the quest of improving the economic climate for historically underutilized business enterprises is acknowledged and recognized.

Previous awardees include 2010 winners John Adams of the Pittsburgh Regional Minority Purchasing Council and Donald Carter of the Small Business Administration; 2009 winners the Bidwell Training Center and Nate Smith; 2008 winners Louis “Hop” Kendrick and The New Pittsburgh Courier; 2007 winners Ernie Sota and Sala Udin; 2006 winners Gwendolyn Allen and Attorney Carl H. Brown Jr.; and 2005 winners Arthur Glover and James Moreland.

As president and CEO of the Western Pennsylvania Minority Supplier Development Council, Nichols said he and his staff are working to assure the businesses they work with have a level playing field.

“Our mission is to develop opportunities for minority-owned businesses by certifying and linking them to corporations and public agencies,” he said.

Formerly working within corporate America as well as operating his own business, Nichols understands both sides of the fence.

Happy but humbled to be a 2011 Hall of Fame Inductee; Powell has spent 20 years of his professional career with the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh.

“I think the URA’s diversity program is one of the best around,” he said.

As director of diversity affairs and community outreach his responsibilities are to oversee all the Authority’s diversity activities, creating business development opportunities for minority and women entrepreneurs. He pointed out that over the past four years, the Authority has achieved a participation level of 18 percent in women and minority business and women and minority business development activity has amounted to more than $500 million in contract awards.

Updating some and educating others on Marcellus Shale drilling, Frederick Douglas Sr., owner of Cosmos Technologies, Inc., discussed the process and pointed out that Marcellus Shale is the largest single reservoir of natural gas in the United States. Cosmos Technologies, Inc. is an engineering consulting company working toward gaining a waste water treatment contract.

Audric K. Dodds, supplier diversity manager at EQT, discussed business opportunities for MWDBE companies.

“Marcellus Shale is good for the community,” he said, pointing out that in 2009, 44,000 jobs were created, in 2010 the numbers doubled, in 2011 the numbers will expand to 11,413 and by 2020 jobs will increase to 211,909.

Dodds explained that EQT once known as Equitable Gas has developed smarter and cleaner drilling technologies, enabling them to have grown to be one of the country’s largest natural gas producers. EQT operates in four states and are a technology-driven leader in the integration of air and horizontal drilling.

Not just focusing on entrepreneurial opportunities, the conference shared ways to connect people with jobs within the Marcellus Shale industry.

“To meet the growing necessity for a trained workforce in multiple positions associated with the Marcellus Shale, CCAC has put together an exciting strategy for training. This strategy recognizes the workforce needs of the entire industry (exploration, drilling and production), which incorporates a wide range of occupations and, therefore, greater training opportunities” said Judith A. Savolskis, interim vice president, workforce development.

Savolskis and Francis “Kip” Deleonibus, coordinator Roustabout Training Initiative for CCAC, explained that the college offers both credit and non-credit courses to prepare individuals in sustainable, high-skill “nexus” occupations.

The mission of the 22 member MWDBE Governmental Committee is to create effective methods that strengthen economic opportunities for minority, women, and disadvantaged business enterprises and to provide assistance enabling contractors and businesses to secure contracts in the goods and service, construction and professional services markets leading to profitability and growth for the businesses.

Other member organizations include Allegheny County Airport Authority, Allegheny County Dept. of MWDBE, Allegheny County Dept. of Public Works, Allegheny County Housing Authority, Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, City of Pittsburgh Equal Opportunity Review Commission, Dept. Of Energy/National Energy Technology Laboratory, Diversity Business Resource Center, Government Agency Coordination Office of California University of PA, Housing Authority, City of Pittsburgh, PA Department of General Services/BMWBO, Pittsburgh Parking Authority, Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority, Port Authority of Allegheny County, Sports & Exhibition Authority, Urban Redevelopment Authority, U. S. Small Business Administration

Officers of the organization are Chair Duvall Aiken, CCAC; Vice Chair Valerie Waters, URA; Secretary Monica Jones, Allegheny County Airport Authority; and Treasurer Elizabeth Bowers, Pennsylvania Department of General Services.

Pleased with the participation of exhibitors and MWBEs, “This is how business connections are to be made,” said Jones looking around the room. “It is a state of opportunity.”

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