Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Charles Powell Recognized by SBA for Work with Region's Minority Community

News Release


Release Date:
May 18, 2011
Contact: Janet Heyl (412) 395-6560, ext. 103

Release Number: PGH11-11

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SBA honors community director for outreach efforts, economic growth and social acceptance

PITTSBURGH – Throughout his four-decade career in community development as director of diversity affairs and community outreach for the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) of Pittsburgh, Charles Powell never lost sight of his target: to work constructively on behalf of the region’s minority community.

For his efforts, Powell will be honored May 27th as the Western Pennsylvania Minority Small Business Champion of the Year at SBA’s Western Pennsylvania Awards Luncheon. Eight other local small business owners and advocates will be honored at the luncheon, which is held at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel Pittsburgh, in conjunction with the 48th annual celebration of National Small Business Week in Washington, D.C.

In the past 20 years, Powell has been instrumental in leveraging more than $500 million contract dollars for women and minority businesses.

“We [the URA] are the economic engine for this city and my role centers on training and community outreach,” Powell said. Powell explained his work is judged by the many communities within the city of Pittsburgh and that most organizations would give him an “A grade.”

“At the recent Target development site in East Liberty, the mayor and URA board established a minority contracting goal of 25 percent,” he explained. “But, through our outreach and compliance, that project saw 42 percent of contracts and subcontracts awarded to women and minority firms.” Growing up in McDonald, Pa., Powell attended Virginia Union University where he majored in psychology and entered the workforce just as America was embracing the Great Society.

“The Great Society was an introduction to a national emphasis to provide support to communities for education to embrace and deal with changes in social thinking,” Powell explained. “The jobs provided decent wages and the government was looking for people with a background in psychology and sociology.” He started his community relations career with the Greater Pittsburgh Dairy Association, where he was responsible for educating the area’s 26 local dairies on integration and the importance of hiring African-Americans as dairy workers and truck drivers.

“I received strong support and a lot of publicity because we [the association] wanted people to know that our goal was to integrate the Western Pennsylvania dairy industry,” Powell stated.

However, one day, he noticed a large group outside of the former Mellon Bank headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh protesting the bank to hire African-Americans.

“I was recommended to Mellon to assist their efforts and stayed there for 20 years where I increased my responsibilities, first in employee relations and finally moved to corporate affairs where I became a vice president,” he added.

When Mellon shifted its focus to investment banking, Powell transferred his skills to the URA and to the community.

He was appointed by former Gov. Rendell to the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Board and also serves on the board for the Salvation Army. While Powell certainly is pleased at his civic contributions over the last 40 years, he is most proud of being a founding member of Pittsburgh’s African-American Chamber of Commerce and being invited to a 2007 National Security Seminar at the U.S. Army’s War College in Carlisle, Pa.

“I wasn’t a veteran and someone nominated me and I was selected and that was special,” he said. “So was the 1992 creation of the African American chamber by a small group of visionaries.”

According to Western Pennsylvania SBA District Director Carl Knoblock, Powell serves as an example of how government leaders can strive for community involvement and betterment. “He has given so much back to neighborhood small businesses through his leadership and commitment. He truly is an asset.”

Powell said he was overjoyed to be recognized by the SBA, which has a mission parallel to that of the URA.

“Being involved with small business is a great mission because we help the economy grow; it’s a great honor to be acknowledged.”

Note: If you would like to speak with Charles Powell or Carl Knoblock, Western Pennsylvania SBA district director, please contact Janet Heyl at 412-395-6560, ext. 103


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