By James Dowd (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal

Honoring the advancements made by local minority entrepreneurs during the last year, the Mid-South Minority Business Council on Friday recognized four top winners during the 23rd Robert R. Church awards.

Named after one of the nation’s first African-American millionaires and the founder of Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Co., the awards recognize strides made by and on behalf of the local minority business community.

“If we look at the history of Robert R. Church, he was a man who managed through difficult times and helped our city succeed,” said Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton. “Times were tough when he prospered, as indeed they are tough now, and it’s fitting that we remember him by honoring these businesses that are the glue of our communities.”

This year’s recipients included Zycron Technology Services and Solutions as leading minority business and Bonita S. Davis as the year’s most ardent minority business advocate.

Memphis City Schools was named top corporation for demonstrating an ongoing commitment to minority business development.

And the University of Memphis was recognized as creative visionary supplier for its innovative strategies in finding ways to do business with minority- and women-owned companies.

In addition, the MMBC awarded $10,000 in scholarships to 10 college-bound students in the Memphis City and Shelby County school systems.

Keynote speaker Walter Kimbrough, president of Philander Smith College in Little Rock, urged business owners and their supporters to shed complacency and embrace creativity.

“We can’t do things the same way we have in the past, we have to adapt to a new era,” Kimbrough said. “We live in times when being safe can be risky. You need to be new and interesting and noteworthy.”

Promoting minority- and women-owned businesses is a chief goal of the MMBC, said the organization’s CEO and president, Luke Yancy III.

And during difficult economic times, those efforts are even more vital, he added.

“It’s critical that we recognize, validate and support these businesses and their advocates,” Yancy said. “By helping to ensure their success we create a more viable community in which we all can succeed.”

The MMBC now counts nearly 100 corporate members and more than 500 certified minority- and women-owned businesses. The group has experienced consistent growth since its inception 25 years ago and has broadened its vision as well, said founding member Fred L. Davis.

“Way back when, there were just a few of us who realized the impact that minority and women-owned businesses could have on this city,” said Davis, who was named the group’s new board chairman during Friday’s ceremony. “We focused on minority economic development and we’ve continued to expand that mission. The horizon today is much brighter and broader than it was in the beginning.”

Mid-South Minority Business Council 23rd Robert R. Church Awards

Minority Business of the Year: Zycron Inc.

Minority Business Advocate of the Year: Bonita S. Davis

Corporation of the Year: Memphis City Schools

Creative Visionary Supplier of the Year: University of Memphis

Read the Article published by the Memphis Commerical Appeal