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The Black Business Association-Oregon names a director and announces its new mission.

An ambitious new initiative supported by community organizations and government leaders to promote the successful development of Black-owned businesses in the Portland region was announced on Monday, April 25.COURTESY PHOTO: PBA - Lance Randall

The Black Business Association-Oregon has hired Lance Randall, 56, a small business owner with extensive economic development experience, as its executive director. He has relocated from the Seattle area, where he worked for both public and private economic development organizations.

"I saw the opportunity in Portland to combine economic justice and social justice after the protests that followed the death of George Floyd," said Randall, referring to the unarmed Black man killed by Minneapolis police. "There has been a lot of focus on social justice across the country, but the Black Business Association is also working to improve the Black businesses that have historically been the bedrock of the Black community. That's a model for the rest of the country, too," Randall told the Portland Tribune.

According to Randall, there are a little more than a dozen existing organizations across the state involved in Black-owned business development. He sees his role in part as bringing them together under a common agenda to support the retention and expansion of existing Black-owned businesses, and to recruit new Black-owned business to the state.

Despite its name, Randall says the initiative will help the larger number of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) businesses grow and prosper.

"My vision is to achieve economic equity for BIPOC businesses and communities that is sustainable and lasting through a Black economic resilience agenda for the state of Oregon. I believe we can bring this vision to fruition through genuine partnerships, significant investments a detailed strategy, and an unwavering commitment to economic justice," he said.

The initiative was created through a public-private partnership that included the Portland Business Alliance, the city of Portland, Prosper Portland, the Black, Indigenous, People of Color Caucus of the Oregon Legislature, the Meyer Memorial Trust, Google's Tidewater Foundation, the city of Portland, and the National Association of Minority Contractors—Oregon Chapter. Together, they have contributed more than $1 million so far.

"You can't get to justice without creating economic justice for Black Oregonians," said D'Artagnan Caliman, director of Meyer Memorial Trust's Justice Oregon for Black Lives initiative, a five-year, $25 million commitment. "I'm proud that Meyer is supporting the (Black Business Association-Oregon), and I'm confident that Mr. Randall and his team will be an asset to our state, and to Oregon's Black business communities."

The Black Business Association-Oregon is housed in the National Association of Minority Contractors-Oregon Chapter, which advocates and supports Black, Indigenous, People of Color-owned businesses by optimizing project participation and providing business development through education and training.

"As a founding member of the Black Business Association of Oregon, I am thrilled to welcome Lance Randall as its new executive director," said Andrew Colas, president & CEO of Colas Construction Inc., president of the board of National Association of Minority Contractors-Oregon Chapter, and board member of the alliance's board. "Lance's strong background in economic development throughout his career made him the clear choice. We believe that he will create a blueprint that will eventually become a national model for Black economic development and entrepreneurship."

Move to West Coast

Randall was born in Macon, Georgia, where he and his four sisters were raised by his parents. He graduated from Bibb County Public Schools and attended Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, where he graduated with a degree in political science. He is also a graduate of the University of Oklahoma's highly acclaimed Economic Development Institute in Norman, Oklahoma. Since 1995, Randall has held a series of economic development positions in Georgia and Washington, where he was recruited for the position of business relations manager for the Seattle Office of Economic Development. In 2015, Randall became the director of economic development for Southeast Effective Development, an organization that provides arts and culture, economic development, and low-income housing for residents living in Southeast Seattle. According to his announcement, during his career, Randall's work in economic development has generated more than $47 million in investments by local businesses and created and preserved almost 1,300 jobs.

Randall also owns the Affordable Sound Co., a private business that sets up and operates custom sound systems for small- and medium-sized venues, including churches and concert halls. He relocated the business to Portland when he moved for the new position.

"There are lot of things I learned as a business owner that helps with my being an economic development practitioner," Randall said.

'The Invisible Knee'

Randall was recruited to his new position by Motus Recruiting, an award-winning recruiting and staffing firm in the Pacific Northwest, specializing in professional services and technology solutions. The recruiting effort was led by a coalition of the Alliance's Black board members, who issued a statement titled {obj:62191:"The Invisible Knee"} calling for action for economic equity on June 9, 2020, during the social justice protests Floyd's death.

"The pathway forward does not require the elimination of capitalism, or upending the entrepreneurial spirit of our region, but instead empowering the Black community to aspire and achieve wealth through the fostering of an economic ecosystem that recognizes the historical systemic barriers Black people face when working to amass wealth. We know that George Floyd lost his life when a knee was held against his neck by Officer Derek Chauvin. It is the Invisible Knee, however, that has kept Black Americans from prospering: it is the unobservable forces that have prevented Black families from building, growing and sustaining generational wealth within the broader community," the statement said.

Driven by this call to action and supported by the Alliance's board, members and staff, the Alliance committed to a multi-year plan focused on utilizing public-private partnerships to influence policies that improve and promote economic prosperity and resiliency for Black businesses and residents in the Greater Portland region. The Black Business Association-Oregon was developed as a direct result of this effort and is informed by a strategic plan that addresses multiple factors of economic inequality, the announcement said.

"Like so many organizations who are committed to change, the Alliance celebrates those who challenge the status quo, asking critical questions on how we can all do more and do better to improve the lives of Black, Indigenous and people of color," said Andrew Hoan, President & CEO of the Portland Business Alliance, a membership organization that advocates for businesses. "We are listening, and we are learning. And we are excited to have Lance Randall pave the way toward real and tangible results for our local and regional Black business owners and residents."

The announcement also included statements of support for the initiative and Randall from other funders and Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, state Rep. Rob Nosse, state Sen. Kayse Jama, and state Rep. Janelle Bynum.


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