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Leaders of NAMC-Oregon and Black Business Association of Oregon

Power Through Community Economics

NAMC- Oregon’s Executive director Nate McCoy and Black Business Association of Oregon Executive Director Lance Randall

Oregon’s complex and often contradictory history inspires both pride and derision. For every policy achievement Oregon has earned, there has been an equal and opposite reaction. The 33rd state has a unique history that, when laid out, clearly blueprints the foundation of Oregon’s modern struggles. In 1859 we were admitted to the Union as a Free State, a fact that is an undeniable good. However, in the writing of our state constitution, lawmakers inserted a clause stipulating that Blacks were prohibited from making contracts, owning property, or even living in the State of Oregon. This clause made an indelible mark on our state’s political and civic cultures, influencing how Oregonians interacted with People of Color.

Throughout its 163 years, the state has systematically marked the Indigenous Tribes of the region, Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, Mexican Americans, and many other ethnic groups for exclusion and legal discrimination. As late as the 1970s, towns in southern Oregon, such as Grants Pass, had signs crudely threatening Black Oregonians into leaving the town by sundown. That is in living memory and speaks to the fact that Oregonians of Color had been prevented culturally and politically from establishing meaningful economic roots.

By restricting and barring entire ethnicities from participating in the economy, Oregon worked to establish sheltered markets where select companies could figuratively divide Oregon’s economic engines amongst themselves. Industries like timber, construction, farming, and fishing were protected from non-white competition, leaving profound social and economic scars that have been excruciatingly slow to heal.

This history comes as a surprise to many. Still, to Oregonians of Color, that history is so tangible that sometimes, it seems to stubbornly stick like glue to whatever it touches. And that history has clung to Nate McCoy, the Executive Director of the Oregon Chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors, and Lance Randall, Black Business Association of Oregon (BBAO) Executive Director.

Both believe that equity will come from economics. As a native Oregonian, Mr. McCoy has witnessed the rise, fall, and rebirth of some of Portland’s cornerstone businesses of Color. This experience shepherded him to understand how community-focused economics can serve as the beating heart of thriving, vibrant communities.

However, McCoy learned that success for People of Color in Oregon is built from a foundation of mutual trust and a shared vision. From his experience, he said it is fundamental to build “real relationships with people who have gotten a chance to understand your struggles, your stories, your opportunities, and your vision.” He believes that a proper “vision must be clear for any business or growing company. And NAMC is a great way for more businesses of Color to tell their stories and share their value propositions with the communities they support. People gravitate to people with good and very clear visions for success.”

Mr. Randall emphasized that community economics is essential for establishing economic parity and economic equity in our state. Two groups he highlighted that perform exemplary versions of community economics are the Mexican American and the Asian-American communities. Randall said that generally, the Asian Community, and more specifically the Chinese American community, have what are called family clubs. “These clubs are where the community will pool, lend and donate money and resources to each other to make sure everyone in the community has what they need.” He explained that a very similar system emerged from the Mexican American Community, where “relatives and families will band together under the concept of ensuring the community is taken care of.”

That spirit of community economics, of it taking a village to raise a child, is precisely what NAMC-Oregon brings to the table as a critical convener in our various diverse communities, McCoy said. “NAMC believes it doesn’t just take a village to raise a child, it takes a village to raise a community. We have so many different great organizations doing amazing work, but we’re siloed. We’re in our own individual communities. We do not impact broader swaths of folks unless we are working together. That was the driving force behind the BBAO and our wider association partnerships.”

“The fact that NAMC, an organization run by, and focused on People of Color, and the Portland Business Alliance (PBA), a largely White organization, have joined forces to put together an organization that is designed to bring about economic prosperity for the Black Community is crucial,” said Randall, and is a sign that the village that Nate described is growing.

Randall continued, “BBAO’s mission and vision are clear. We are an organization that is designed to bring about economic prosperity.” he said. “We just need to show people what we [the Black Community] can do.” The White Community has access to the lion’s share of the capital and opportunity in Oregon. “Because of our history, we’re often afraid to put ourselves out there, to jump into these predominantly White spaces.” Lance explained that the BBAO will fight to “make sure that we are prepared to take advantage of these opportunities.” He said the end game for him isn’t control or power, “the end game is equity, prosperity and everyone having what they need.”

“Growth for BBAO, or any of our close association partners like LatinoBuilt, NAYA, or AGC, is growth for NAMC,” McCoy said. “We are a village. A community.” He emphasized. McCoy said, “To that end, NAMC and our partners are trying to zero in and set new tables that specifically address gaps in wealth creation, home ownership, and business revenue to create programs and policies for the retention and expansion of businesses of Color.”

The growth of these businesses of Color, said McCoy, “is a universal benefit to us all. On the surface, it allows these smaller companies to grow, thrive, and more significantly contribute to the tax base. But more crucially, it allows our Communities of Color to ensure they have what they need so that no one falls through the cracks.”


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