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MMBC Economic Fair turns it up a notch

The 2011 Mid-South Minority Business Council’s (MMBC) Economic Development Fair at the Cook Convention Center proved to be a major hit with both exhibitors and participants.  by Tony Jones
Special to the Tri-State Defender

From the new in-the-round exhibit hall layout, to the level of keynote speakers, the 2011 Mid-South Minority Business Council’s (MMBC) Economic Development Fair at the Cook Convention Center proved to be a major hit with both exhibitors and participants.

Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments, delivered a keynote address with staying power at The MMBC Continuum’s 2011 Economic Development Fair luncheon at the Memphis Cook Convention Center on Tuesday. (Photo by Morgan Mukarram)

Earl Graves Jr., CEO, Black Enterprise, helped set the tone for The MMBC Continuum’s 2011 Economic Development fair with his breakfast keynote speech on Tuesday. (Photo by Morgan Mukarram)

Juan Self (l) of Self Tucker Architects, Inc., mingled with state Reps. Johnnie Turner and G. A. Hardaway Sr. at Monday’s Executive Business Reception. (Photo by Tyrone P. Easley)

Working under the title Wall Street to Main Street: Bridging the Economic Avenues of America, MMBC’s mission is to trumpet “the importance of supporting the growth of capable Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) to service the needs of major corporations.”

Tuesday’s premiere celebrity speakers from the national market were a clear indicator of how MMBC stepped up its game in presenting its fourth annual fair. Attendees were still talking about Black Enterprise CEO Earl Graves Jr. long after his keynote breakfast speech. And the lunchtime address by Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments and a regularly appearing financial commentator on NBC’s “Today Show” had similar staying power.

Receiving rock-star style accolades, Hobson spoke of living in the projects and the associated experiences that have made her a star as a wealth management consultant.

“They (Ariel Investments) are the only African-American mutual fund company that is published every day,” said Memphis City Schools Board President Martavius Jones, an independent financial advisor. “She is absolutely top-notch.”

Accompanying Jones in line to greet Hobson was Darryl Freeman, a Nashville-based computer tech firm whose company was just named to the Black Enterprises Top 100 minority owned business listing.

“I just read it (the Top 100 listing) last Saturday,” Jones said, “and it was very exciting to see it.” Holding his daughter Kenya’s hand, Jones said success lies in, “The fact that you must be determined to succeed. Know what you are doing, choosing the right people and working very hard.

“If it takes ten years, if it takes fifteen years, be persistent and determined to overcome the obstacles. It took ten years for us to gain a client that we are now doing business with. It’s about the persistence, breaking down the resistance.”

Jarvis Woods, 25, a salesman for Devcon Security Services Corporation, practiced his meet-and-greet skills as he waited for the exhibit floor traffic to begin.

“It’s very professional, very well done. Great for networking, great for meeting with a lot of different professionals from a lot of different industries that you otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to meet. You can’t be too good at networking, especially in my business and just being here helps. My own goal is to become the top salesman at my company, I’m presently number five, and to be the best at what I do.”

Phillip May, president of the Tennessee Division of Metropolitan Bank, said the benefit of potentially creating more minority-based accounts drew him to MMBC’s Economic Development Fair.

“Memphis is small business for the most part, a lot of which are owned by minorities. To me it’s all about relationships, one to one. You have all this divisiveness and noise, even with our history, the only way to create a solution is to do what we are doing,” said May. “It still comes down to individual to individual and businesses working together. If we want to be part of the community, we have to be a part of growing minority businesses.”

Accented with luxury cars, MMBC’s exhibit floor was arranged in an open-air circle that promoted interaction and created channels for accessibility for the vendors doing public relations work for their companies.

Flintco Constructive Solutions gave their booth visitors chocolate hammers. Tetratech, a global environmental engineering consulting firm associated with the Riverfront Project here, went old school with do-it-yourself airplanes, a perfect contrast to their next generation energy design business.

The star of the show was a virtual reality display introducing strollers to Solar-Tech, a Cordova design firm headed by Pam Weakley. Purchased from 3M, her company was making its presentation with a film-generated avatar created by 3M.

“It’s a brand new technology we just introduced in Las Vegas,” 3M’s marketing coordinator, Katherine Dewey, said as she explained Solar Tech’s business lines to curious passers-by. “Pam (Weakley) was only the fourth person filmed to introduce it. She followed Eddie George, Peyton Manning and another athlete. It’s expensive, but it gets the message across and draws in customers.”

Black Business Association President Roby Williams succinctly summed up this year’s event.

“Simply outstanding. Carefully constructed, very well put together, excellently scheduled and very well executed. Encore!”

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