Winners Are Area Minority Leaders

October 20, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Oct. 22, kicks off its 2003 Minority Business Celebration by naming three winners of minority business awards.

Entitled “Beyond the Basics: Strategy, Structure and Culture,” the awards honor local businesspeople and organizations that best symbolize through their actions the spirit and intent of minority economic development.

Advocate Award

The 2003 Minority Business Advocate of the Year award will go to Joe Jones of Jones & Gavan LLC.

Jones has long been an advocate of minority-owned businesses and for many years has been a resource for many in the community who are looking for a minority-owned business for a specific need. He has mentored several minority-owned business owners in the area and has been a personal mentor and adviser to many.

Those nominated him said, “One of Joe’s predominant skills is networking. Being a humble spirit, Joe is able to have meaningful conversations with people from all sectors of the community. His mass appeal stems from his honesty, integrity and wonderful sense of humor. This enables Mr. Jones to promote minority-owned businesses in a seamless way.”

Corporate Award

The 2003 Minority Business Corporate Award will go to SBC Communications.

SBC has long been an advocate and leader in the inclusion of minority, women and disabled veteran-owned businesses. From 1999-2002 the communications giant was recognized by Fortune magazine as one of the best companies for minorities.

“The SBC work force is 48 percent female and 38 percent people of color. In addition, this year the SBC supplier diversity program is celebrating 35 years of promoting opportunities for women-, minority-, and disabled veteran-owned businesses,” said Gail Torreano, president of SBC Communications. “In 2002, SBC spent 16.6 percent of its total procurement, or $1.7 billion, with these vendors.”

Torreano said the long-term commitment and far-reaching effects of SBC are simply the right way of doing business.

“SBC does all it can to encourage diversity throughout the corporation, because we recognize that one of our company’s greatest strengths is the rich variety of our talented and dedicated employees. Only a work force representing the many cultures and attitudes of the entire community can forge powerful links that deliver long-term success.”

Not only does SBC encourage diversity within the company, but also within the community. One example of that is in the $25,000 grant the SBC Foundation awarded the Grand Rapids Area Pre-College Engineering Program (GRAPCEP) of Davenport University and the Manufacturer’s Council of The Right Place Inc. to develop a Web-based program that will attract low-income and minority students into technical and engineering careers.

“At SBC, we believe strongly in building community partnerships. SBC’s business cannot be successful without a strong community where our employees and our customers live, work and do business.”

Torreano said SBC will accept the award, but not to expect the firm to rest on its laurels.

“Our unwavering commitment to work force and supplier diversity is fundamental to our success and helps us maintain our leadership in today's marketplace,” she said. “We are honored to receive the 2003 Minority Business Award for Corporation of the Year from the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.”

Business Person Award

The 2003 Minority Business Person of the Year is Nolan Groce, president of L&G Industrial Products.

Groce met the qualifications for the Minority Business Person of the Year because he is the principal of a minority-owned business that has at least a five-year operating history, highlighted by sales, profit and employment growth.

L&G Industrial Products has grown from a five-employee operation to a 30-employee, three-shift operation that is still growing in a rebounding economy.

The company began as a Just In Time (JIT), cut-to-size wood products operation with the added value of production sequencing, which at the time was a new offering in West Michigan, not to mention the only one of its kind in the country.

As the service grew, however, Groce said L&G saw a need to further assist the end user by reducing delivery time and costs, which developed into L&G setting up a complete cutting and sequencing operation on site at Steelcase Inc.

And while L&G Industrial Products has thrived in the area of innovation, it also excels in human resources. The company has given a chance to many individuals who have been denied opportunities due to past criminal offenses. The firm also makes it a standard practice to promote from within as opposed to bringing in outside workers.

L&G also arranges for flexible work hours for employees seeking additional education or training, even though the training may lead to a job outside L&G.           

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