Town Hall Meeting
Sharing of Promise, Hope, and Frustration

Thanks to the Consortium of African American Organizations (CAAO) I became
aware of a Minority Business Owners Town Hall Meeting, and decided to attend.  
The meeting took place at Morning Star Baptist Church, and was sponsored by
The Ohio Department of Development, Division of Minority Affairs.  Even though
the focus was on the Minority Contractors & Business Assistance Program, I
believe there are lessons learned that extend beyond that particular program.

Congratulations are in order for the planners and participants of the meeting,
several of whom left the Columbus, Ohio area early enough to make the 8:00 AM
meeting.  Despite the sometimes treacherous driving conditions the morning of
December 13th, the meeting was fully staffed and very well attended.  Also, the
meeting was preceded by breakfast prepared by the mother (and whoever may
have helped) of moderator Philip Shotwell.  I don’t know her name, but she is an
EXCELLENT cook.  Now back to the meeting!

The meeting planners included Philip Shotwell, Natalie Burley, Sharon Smith,
Maceo Whitfield, Mike Davis, Kimberly Bryant, and others whose names I
regrettably cannot remember.  Most of those above are involved in one way or
another in creating or maintaining an atmosphere of inclusion with regard to
minority contractors.  Philip Shotwell, a native Clevelander who reports to
Governor Ted Strickland, did an excellent job of explaining the objectives of the
meeting, explaining the administration’s goals, and maintaining the smooth and
orderly flow of the meeting.  That last task was no small accomplishment, given
the underlying and understandable frustration of many in the audience.  It was
obvious that recent past administrations had failed in the implementation and
enforcements of policies, procedures, and laws designed to correct gross
inequities in the awarding of loans and contracts to minorities.

Philip spent a great deal of time, energy and emotion, asking that attendees give
the Strickland administration the opportunity to work toward viable solutions.  He
demonstrated considerable restraint on a couple of occasions, when obviously
frustrated attendees came very close to “making it personal.”

One audience member, speaking of the day to day challenges of attempting to
survive in the midst of discriminatory practices, inserted into his remarks “. . .and
then we get people coming up here in their suits . . .etc.”.  One would almost
have to conclude that the reference was directed toward an impeccably dressed
Philip and others members of his staff.  After diplomatically turning the comment
into a few light-hearted giggles from the audience, Philip resumed his mission of
reminding the audience that the reason for his presence and those who assisted
him, was to explain and encourage involvement in the process.  He revealed
several positive moves already made by the Strickland Administration, including
the hiring of several enforcement personnel in areas that previously had NO
enforcement personnel at all.

Many audience members brought what seemed to be valid concerns and
valuable comments to the meeting.  I was hard-pressed to make judgments
because the issues of contracting in general, and minority contracting
specifically is a very long way from my area of expertise.  I was very impressed
by the comments of Norman Bliss, chairman and CEO of Polytech, Inc.  In
remarks that transcended talk of set asides and percentages of available work,
Norman went a step beyond.  He spoke of how failing to “Buy Ohio” takes so
much out of the economy, that even an equitable division of what’s available
would not be sufficient.  His obvious knowledge of facts, ideas about solutions,
and eloquence in presentation nearly had him mobbed for business cards.  It
was clear that many attendees valued his depth of knowledge and fresh

I was also impressed by one of the first attendees that I met.  A young man by
the name of Tory Coats took a seat close by me.  I thought briefly, “Maybe I
should introduce myself.”  Then I said to myself “maybe later.”  I was too slow!  
Tory approached me in a confident manner, introduced himself, and immediately
asked what I did.  His entire focus was about me, and he never tried to sell me a
single thing.  In doing so, he completely sold me on Tory.  From his business
card I found that Tory is a Commercial Account Representative with the Pinkney
Perry Insurance Agency, and may be contacted at 216-795-1995, ext. 222, or
contact by e-mail at

Even though as I previously stated, minority contracting is not my field of
expertise, I am glad I had the experience of attending this meeting.  Learning
never hurts, and this exposure has made me more aware of the pain and
frustration of my brothers and sisters, increased my appreciation of those trying
to make a difference, and reinforced my belief (and expectations) of the
Strickland Administration.  I go into the new year (and hopefully not alone) with
the expectation that there will be positive change.

The Consortium of African American Organizations (CAAO - pronounced K-O) is
about harnessing and directing the power of thousands of black professionals in
Northeast Ohio. CAAO serves as a conduit to existing resources as well as
assists in the areas of entrepreneurial and professional development.

• So if you are thinking about coming to Northeast Ohio -
• If you are new to Northeast Ohio -
• If you want to make the most of what you now have in Northeast Ohio -
• If you want to identify resources in the black professional community -
• If you want access to the black professional community

Click here to link to CAAO

Henry & Dianne Ford


Upon This Rock
Knowing and Building
Upon Your History

Jasmine Hudson

Doug Holmes, III

An Evening with Bob Proctor
Valuable Moments of Revelation,
Education, Inspiration and More

Payday Loans
Deeper and Deeper and
Deeper into Debt?

No Special Skills Or Experience
Required To Get Started
Yeah, Right!

Town Hall Meeting
Sharing of Promise, Hope,
and Frustration

Fifteen Minutes of Fame
Thank You to Barbara Cooper,
Carl Williams and Willie Gardner

Get Your Business On-Board
the World Wide Web


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