Organization has championed minority businesses as a part of their 'Everybody's In, Nobody's Out' philosophy

As the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs marks its 30th anniversary, it will celebrate the partnerships that helped to make it a success during its Annual Luncheon and Trade Show scheduled to be held May 10 at the Oregon Convention Center.

Themed "30 Years of Partnering," the event is designed for purchasers and buyers from public and private agencies to network with emerging small businesses owned by minorities, women and disabled veterans.

This year's panel, again moderated by Ozzie Gonzalez, architectural designer for CH2M Hill, will feature Owen Blank, Michael Lewellen, Jaime Lim and Sandra McDonough. COURTESY: OAME - OAME's annual luncheon and trade show features panel discussions, special guests and more. This years event promises to be a celebration as the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs marks its 30th anniversary.

"People who have been around through the years and played a part in OAME's success will talk about why they played a part," said Sam Brooks, OAME's founder and chairman of the board.

He noted that Blank, a partner with Tonkon Torp, worked with OAME in 1990 to formulate an agreement to help businesses owned by women and minorities. Blank represented what was then called the Portland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, now the Portland Business Alliance. Through the partnership, Tonkon Torp provided legal and business advice for three women- and minority-owned businesses at no cost.

Brooks was the first African-American to serve on the chamber's board and met McDonough, who will retire this summer as head of the Portland Business Alliance, through the organization. He said he appreciated the guidance and support she provided during his tenure.

COURTESY: OAME - OAME is most known for its networking events that bring both small and large businesses together with public agencies and industry leaders.Lewellen, vice president of corporate communications and public engagement for the Portland Trail Blazers, previously worked for Nike and represented the company on OAME's Advisory Board. Nike's financial backing helped OAME start its microloan program in the 1990s. Lewellen remains a member of its Advisory Board.

Lim, publisher of The Asian Reporter, attended OAME's first meeting and will speak about how he has seen the association grow and evolve over the years.

"We've got people who have history with us and can attest to it, and what I really want young people to get out of this year's event is that you can get anything done if you build partnerships," Brooks said.

Support for the Annual Luncheon and Trade Show is proof of the strength of those partnerships, and OAME now has about 50 sponsors for the event.

In addition to the panel discussion, the luncheon will feature the presentation of OAME's annual awards. These include Minority Business of the Year, Construction Company of the Year, Corporate Award of the Year, Public Agency/Individual Award of the Year and The Chairman Award of the Year, which goes to the OAME member or staff who best assisted Brooks in accomplishing the association's mission and goals.

Brooks and OAME President Jorge Guerra have worked together for 28 years and likened their relationship to "an old shoe with a good fit." Guerra said it's been a great partnership and he has appreciated the opportunity to represent OAME while attending business meetings statewide.

"OAME is very well recognized for what we've done over the years. We're known for our friendly manner, professionalism and partnerships. OAME has become the place to be," he said.

Brooks said the association's philosophy, "Everybody's In, Nobody's Out," has grown over the years as well. The 850-member association is a collection of entrepreneurs, public agencies, partner nonprofits and large businesses. Its mission is directed toward eliminating discrimination and racism.

From its Delta Park campus, OAME provides free technical assistance and business counseling; access to capital, including small business association microloans; Clearinghouse, a program that matches small businesses with contracting opportunities; incubator office spaces at below-market rates; and bimonthly networking meetings to promote business growth.

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