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Building minority leaders in the world of construction

Memphis is experiencing a metamorphosis in the entrepreneurial space, with advocacy, incubation and acceleration entities for start-ups and existing businesses growing and becoming more accessible.
For example, the Greater Memphis Chamber Chairman’s Circle has created its Moon Missions and the Economic Development Growth Engine has a small business loan fund. And while the change is welcomed, Memphis still is experiencing a gap between business owners that are minority owned and their counterparts.
The current status of entrepreneur wealth creation does not reflect the demographics of Memphis. The total “minority” population is 73 percent and the total female population is 52.5 percent but the total business receipts of Minority and Women Business Enterprises (MWBEs) in Memphis is a mere 1.3 percent based on the latest U.S. Census data.
More specifically, there is a lack of African-American owned prime contractors in Memphis. Although there are many sub-contractors and residential general contractors that are minority-owned and woman-owned, there is a clearly identified demand for increasing the presence of black-owned general contractors in the commercial realm.
Enter the Contractor’s Construction Class created by Stephanie Alexander of the Memphis Area Minority Contractors Association (MAMCA), and Alandas Dobbins of the Memphis Office of Resources and Enterprise (MORE).
Alexander is executive director of MAMCA, a non-profit organization with 40-plus years of experience dedicated to wealth creation among minority contractors. 
“We strive to assist minority companies in transforming their ideas, dreams, and talents into tomorrow’s great businesses,” said Alexander, who recognizes the key struggles of minority contractors and has been passionate in bringing about a positive change for over 7 years.
“The prior generation has paved the way. They’re retiring and leaving many openings in the commercial construction field to be filled,” said Alexander. “The time is now for the next wave of local contractors to take the torch and create more successful general contractors.”
Alexander partnered with MORE to create a pilot program designed to help guide and transform diamonds in the rough into the future stars in commercial contracting.
“Having a diverse and well-skilled group of companies to choose from increases competition and heightens performance in our community,” said MORE’s Dobbins. “Strong minority and women entrepreneurship is a form of wealth creation in a city that sorely needs it.” 
MORE is a resource agency created by Mayor A C Wharton Jr. to help grow minority and women-owned businesses in Memphis.  MORE works daily with locally-owned companies to share the multitude of resources to help the targeted businesses grow. Dobbins and her team have worked diligently in creating the new office over the last 2 and ½ years.  
No stranger to the challenges that small businesses may encounter, Dobbins is able to draw upon her experiences as a prior business owner with her father, George Dobbins, before he passed in 2006. 
“By strengthening all businesses in our community, the entire community can prosper,” said Dobbins. “Small, minority and women-owned businesses can continue to positively change the current entrepreneur landscape and help create a thriving and vibrant business sector. Every challenge becomes an opportunity for exponential growth, particularly in construction.”
Alexander and Dobbins created a 12-month class for contractors that addresses common business woes from credit repair to OSHA certification to purchasing the right financial software to make a business successful. The program is crafted to help give companies the tools needed to transform from small residential companies into strong general contractors.  
The program takes a comprehensive look at areas that are needed to produce the ideal prime contractor. Realizing that most small businesses become stagnant against their will, the city of Memphis is moving to ensure that the stagnation is not caused by lack of guidance and available resources. By creating solid sub-contractors through rigorous training, the end goal is to create companies that can easily transition to become prime contractors.
 “The huge thirst for knowledge among this focus group of businesses is a clear indication for a thirst of knowledge and guidance that exists in the Memphis MWBE community,” said Alexander.  
Once this pilot program concludes, the class will be open to the next wave of local companies that want to take their company to the next level.
(For more information, visit the MORE website at: www.morememphis.org, the MAMCA website at www.memphisminoritycontractors.com or call Stephanie Alexander at 901-526-9300.)


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