Tuesday, August 16, 2016

MAGNET wants to boost success of minority manufacturers

Nonprofit advocacy  group seeking to build relationships with Northeast Ohio MBEs, aid growth and development

Greater Cleveland’s lagging track record regarding minority business development is increasingly being recognized as a drag on regional growth, at odds with demographic trends nationwide, and a leading contributor to the talent exodus of some of the area’s best and brightest.

But as business consultant Henry Butler noted at an intimate gathering of Northeast Ohio black manufacturers earlier this summer, Greater Cleveland business leaders are gradually coming to the recognition that “growth without inclusion isn’t sustainable”.
Manufacturers Darrell McNair of MVP Plastics and Larry Fulton of LEFCO Worthington share lessons from their experiences with MAGNET.

Butler shared his observation as a preface to a low-key session designed to introduce MAGNET*, the region’s leading nonprofit manufacturing consultant, to the small but significant number of northeast Ohio manufacturing firms owned by people of color. Butler and attorney Stacey Polk coordinated the session. The two are principals in LCR Enterprises LLC, which has been retained by MAGNET to aid the nonprofit’s inclusion efforts.

Ethan Karp, MAGNET CEO

MAGNET CEO Ethan Karp in his welcome spoke to the agency’s offices efforts to become more client-centric, and to serve more clients in the minority community. With refreshing candor, Karp said he knew how to help manufacturers solve problems but that he was clueless about the special challenges black businesses might face.

Two successful African American manufacturers were on hand to share their experiences working with MAGNET. Darrell McNair, CEO of MVP Plastics, a Geauga County Tier 2 supplier to the automotive industry, and a former MAGNET trustee, said he found the agency especially helpful in doing an assessment analysis related to his opening of a new plant last year in Texas. McNair related that most of his company’s business is done outside of Ohio, a frequent observation from many of Cleveland’s most successful African American business owners.

The group also heard from Larry Fulton, CEO of LEFCO Worthington, a manufacturer of wood crates. Fulton shared how MAGNET helped him improve LEFCO's employee engagement and achieve efficiencies in its manufacturing processes.

For the majority of attendees, MBE didn’t seem a big deal. Steve Williams, chief operating officer of Elson’s, said that in today’s climate, having MBE status might be good enough to get you in the door, but that a business must focus on solving problems for its customers. Elson’s CEO Andrew Jackson agreed, saying that he preferred being evaluated without reference to MBE criteria, citing MBE certification as a tool he used only when it benefitted his customer.

McNair offered perhaps the key takeaway from the session. “You can’t expect to grow without making an investment.”

After the session, attendees enjoyed a tour, with samples, of the Cleveland Whiskey plant on the first floor of the MAGNET facility.
Anthony Lockhart and Jason Estremera tour Cleveland Whiskey.

Acknowledging the importance of relationships in doing business, LCR’s Polk said that MAGNET would be hosting a follow up social gathering.

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* Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth NETwork

Monday, August 01, 2016

Nina Turner to accept slot on Green Party ticket?

Ohio politician has history of going against the grain

(Reports have been circulating nationwide since yesterday that Nina Turner has been offered the Vice President slot on the Green Party ticket. Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein tweeted about 4pm today that no offer has yet been made and that she is "in discussions with several strong candidates".)

It was a typically bold and courageous move when former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner surprised many in the political world and joined up with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders in his pursuit of this year’s Democratic presidential nomination. She quickly became one of Sanders’ most prominent, vocal, and ubiquitous surrogates, opening rallies, introducing the candidate, and appearing on talk shows on a regular basis.

It was a bold move because Sanders was a distinct underdog with next to no recognition in the black community. Heck, he wasn’t even a Democrat, and Turner had just gotten through establishing herself as a major rising star in the Ohio Democratic Party. 

A swift and unpredictable rise

Turner’s political rise had been unusually swift and totally unpredictable. The eldest of seven children, her parents split up before she was five. Graduating from high school in 1986, she worked a variety of jobs before returning to school. But before turning 30, she had obtained associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees, along with getting married and starting a family.

Former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner
Turner’s first political position was in Columbus as legislative aide to then state Senator Rhine McLin of Dayton. She returned home to work in the administration of Cleveland mayor Michael White, rising quickly to become Executive Assistant of Legislative Affairs and then Director of Government Affairs for Cleveland public schools, which are under mayoral control. With the mayor’s blessing, in 2001 she ran for city council against the incumbent. She lost, but four years later, she beat his wife, who had succeeded him mid-term.

Turner took office in January 2006 but served substantially less than a full four-year term. When an unexpired term in the Ohio Senate came open in 2008, she leapfrogged several of her political seniors to win the appointment. She later won a full term and remained there until she was term-limited in December 2014.

Turner’s boldest move as a public official came in 2009, when she stood virtually alone among Cleveland-area black elected officials and backed a measure to reform a corrupt and obsolete county government that had been thoroughly dominated by the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. Vilified by the party hierarchy and most of the black political establishment for her apostasy, Turner became a certified political star when the reform measure received overwhelming support countywide, including the black community. She ruffled establishment feathers again in early 2012 with a preliminary challenge to Congresswoman Marcia Fudge before backing off and serving out her state senate term.

The next year, she started running for Ohio Secretary of State, hoping to become the first-ever black Democrat to win a non-judicial statewide election. Although the entire Democratic slate went down in flames in November 2014, her campaign enhanced her stature within the party, and she became the virtual co-leader with incoming party chair David Pepper until she resigned to join the Sanders campaign.

Diverging from the Clintons

It is unclear what commitments Turner made to the Hillary Clinton camp, if any — Turner says none — but the Hillary forces, including the eventual nominee herself, saw Turner’s move as a betrayal, in no small part because Bill Clinton had helped raise funds for Turner’s statewide bid. While Clinton forces all but accused Turner of being an ungrateful runaway, Turner said she chose Sanders because his position on the issues resonated more with what she saw as the black community’s needs.

Clinton of course went on to defeat Sanders for the nomination after a surprisingly long and difficult struggle, in part because she kept a near lock on African American support.

Turner was a fierce and effective campaign Sanders advocate throughout the campaign, so no doubt the Clinton forces enjoyed the opportunity to thwart Sanders’ two attempts to reward Turner’s work. Although wild rumors had Turner being stripped of her credentials and evicted from the convention, the actual payback was her being denied the opportunity to introduce Sanders the first night and then to place his name in nomination the second night.

Turner’s choice

No one should doubt the independence of Turner’s political calculus or her willingness to go against the grain. I have heard her deliver many speeches to diverse groups; not once has she failed to reprise her grandmother’s injunction about the importance of having a strong backbone. Turner is clearly not a Hillary fan at this point, nor is she apt to feel any loyalty to the Party establishment.  Accepting the reported offer to run with Jill Stein on the Green Party ticket would likely raise Turner’s national profile, and probably that of the Greens as well.

But to what end? The Green Party will not win the Presidency. They more than likely will come in fourth, behind both major parties and the Libertarians.

At age 48 and with undeniable political ambition, Turner is potentially a future mayor of Cleveland; that seat could open up in 2021. If a Clinton victory led to a federal appointment for Marcia Fudge, Turner would be a frontrunner for Fudge’s District 11 Congressional seat.

Yet too many losing races will dim even the boldest star. While Turner has options, she will pay a steep price for siding with the Greens whether or not Clinton wins in November. Nobody would risk incurring the ire of Madame President, and given the alternative to a Clinton victory, it’s hard to think Turner would want to do anything that would contribute to a GOP win this fall.

Successful political careers are based on some alchemy of hard work, relationships, timing, and luck. Bold as she is, it’s hard to see Turner putting all her chips on a Green veep’s race. I expect her to leverage the Green Party offer, decline it with grace, and find a way to remain relevant until a likely open mayoral race in 2021. It won’t be easy after the way the Clinton forces dissed her last week, but Nina surely knows politics ain’t beanbag. Sure, on some level squelching Turner’s biggest national moment was personal, but that’s how the game is played.

Turner usually does the right thing for the community. With all that’s at stake nationally, indeed globally, as well as personally, look for Turner to keep whatever blue chips she still has and not exchange them for a self-destructive green one.
• • •

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Trump Acceptance Speech [prepared text]

If you can't wait to hear Donald Trump deliver his acceptance speech tonight, or if you detest the idea of listening to it but nonetheless feel the need to know what he intends to say, you can find the text here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Black Cleveland Pastor II

Rev. Darrell Scott, about whom we wrote in our prior post, spoke earlier than his scheduled time tonight. Those of you who missed his six-minute stem winder, or who want to see it again, can watch it here:


Black Cleveland pastor speaks to nation at GOP convention tonight

There has been scant black presence or even visibility inside the arena at the GOP Convention taking place this week here in Cleveland, notwithstanding the fact that this is a majority black city. In fact, early indications are that there may be fewer African American delegates at the event than at any convention since 1964, the year the GOP nominated Arizona senator Barry Goldwater, whose disdain for the black vote -- if not black people -- was, to be be declaratory about it, a self-evident truth.

The black folk who thus far have had a turn at the convention microphone would be called, in the parlance of our forbears, an embarrassment to the race. Darryl Glenn, the Colorado candidate for the US Senate, and Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke, in particular, seemed zealously out of touch with about 95% of the black people in America, including the large number of socially conservative African Americans. As for Dr. Ben Carson, let's just say some people should be brain surgeons and stay away from politics.

I do intend to watch tonight when one of my neighborhood ministers, Rev. Darrell Scott of mega church New Spirit Revival Center, takes the mike. He gained the first dab of his fifteen minutes a few months ago as an apparent organizer of the aborted attempt to have 100 black ministers meet with Donald Trump at the latter's NYC headquarters, reportedly to endorse his candidacy. When word of the gathering leaked, many of the pastors hastily headed for de Nile River, claiming they had been misled as to the meeting's intent.

Scott is scheduled to speak at 9:10 EDT tonight. I'm most curious to hear him. He will be the second black man with local ties to have a platform at the Convention. But Don King deserves a post all his own.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Trump (Mrs.) channels her inner Obama (Mrs.)

I listened to Melania Trump's speech at the GOP Convention Monday night and thought it was a poised presentation written for her. I figured she hadn't written it because it was replete with the phrases of someone with an ear and feel for the touchstones of a political spouse.

I wasn't surprised when the pundits fell over themselves praising her afterwards. My father schooled me at a young age on the advantages accorded to pretty women. But the praise was so effusive that I had to check myself: had I been too dismissive because she was the wife of an obnoxious prevaricator? While I could certainly acknowledge that she had delivered the speech well, I was in full agreement with one (female) commentator who found her talk fell short because it failed to humanize her husband.  She talked about his love of country and his professional traits but totally failed to talk about him as a loving father and husband beyond the most perfunctory claims. She offered not one insightful vignette of the man at home, interacting with her or the kids. 

So imagine my surprise when it turns out that key parts of Melania's speech was apparently written by Michelle Obama in 2008! A large panel has been discussing this on CNN and even diehard Trump apologists including Jeffrey Lord acknowledge that Melania's speech was plagiarized. The pundits by and large are willing to give her a pass, blaming some unidentified speechwriter for the theft and overlooking her claims to have written much of the speech herself. 

Credit Van Jones for calling b.s., pointing out that Michelle Obama would be vilified if she were found to have plagiarized even if a speechwriter had been the offending party. And credit also Bokari Sellers for noting both the absence of personal anecdotes but also the fact that Melania's prime job was to be Character Reference # 1. That she either accepted the impersonal words of a speechwriter or pilfered them herself may indeed be strong commentary on the candidate's character.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Eye of the Storm

Cleveland, Ohio is the epicenter of the political world this week as the Republican Party (or part of it) comes to town to confirm demagogue Donald Trump as its nominee for President.

My application to the Republican National Convention for credentials to get inside the secured spaces was rejected. I didn't take it personally; there will be roughly 15,000 media in town and lots of them won't be inside the arena either. US political conventions are perhaps the most widely covered spectacles outside the Olympics. But you have your choice of national media for what will happen inside the major venues. Our coverage will focus on local impact from a ground level.

Officer directing me out of his path of travel
I went downtown yesterday afternoon to get a sense of the area's vibe and the security preparations for the convention. I was coming from around 86th and Hough, a scant few blocks east of 79th and Hough where, fifty years ago, the city's black residents exploded in paroxysms of rage against the inhumane conditions of overcrowded, substandard housing to which they had been relegated by intentional public policies of segregation and neglect. Scars from the killing, burning and military occupation that followed can still be seen half a century later -- even as new community self-regeneration occurs, remarkably, cheek by jowl to the still-present desolation -- as we headed west a few miles to downtown. Staying off the main streets, we got all the way down to east Ninth and Chester before encountering more than minimal traffic or any significant number of pedestrians.

Everything changed at that point. Heavy black fencing, maybe ten feet high divides the wide north south thoroughfare. A medley of security forces -- Cleveland cops, Secret Service details (plainly market in black combat vests) among them -- congregated there.

Aware of the tension in the air these days -- further horrific news had come out of Baton Rouge only hours earlier of the senseless murder of three police officers -- I approached one of the uniforms to ascertain the ground rules. I was reasonably well dressed, having just come from interviewing two bright and highly articulate black women attorneys about their Republican Party membership. I was also carrying a miniature shoulder bag with my reporting tools and other gear and wanted in no way to raise the apprehensions of these security personnel, even though they appeared not to have noticed me at all, the five or so them being preoccupied in conversation with one another or directing traffic.

The Secret Service guy was disarming in his amiability. I could go pretty much anywhere, he said, not clearly prohibited by the traffic barriers. I let down my guard at that point, and my curiosity rose. Cleveland’s my town, and I wanted to see what had been done in preparation. I turned south and went up to Euclid and Ninth, once the city’s financial heart where the bankers and white-shoe lawyers who once ran the town were all headquartered. The former Huntington Bank Building, which sits on the northwest corner, rises 21 stories and is reportedly the largest horizontal office building in the USA after the Pentagon.

As I headed west on Euclid towards East 4th Street — Cleveland’s one block version of Bourbon St. — and Public Square, several sirens began to wail, coming up Ninth St. and turning east on Euclid. Understandably, this seemed to provoke more than the normal interest of passersby, who were increasing in number as they moved up and down Euclid, Cleveland’s dominant thoroughfare, connecting downtown to University Circle about 4 miles away. But sensing no danger, I continued along Euclid along increasingly busy sidewalks.
Joy Reid [back to camera] and Chuck Todd on MSNBC East Fourth Street set

Arriving at East Fourth, I seemed to be in a new city. MSNBC has erected two temporary studios on the east side of the block. In short order I saw TV host Joy Reid entering the makeshift studio to join Chuck Todd of Meet the Press. I recognized Washington Post reporter and cable talking head Dan Balz walking down the street, looking for all the world like an ordinary Clevelander. For some reason I called out his name; he turned and looked and me, and after a moment, said hello and kept going.

East Fourth seemed mostly filled with natives, there for a drink or just to take in the spectacle. But there were a number of conventioneers and out-of-town media, recognizable from their convention I.D. tags. I could make out no conventioneers of color.

The ordinariness of it all is what struck me the most, as I headed down Prospect and then through Public Square. I decided to walk up Ontario St. to check out the new Hilton Hotel, built with public funds. Although the sidewalks were much less busy, the security presence was much greater, as I saw mounted police, military forces [probably National Guard], and a SWAT team. Ohio State Troopers were also in evidence around the Square. Most of these forces seemed to be socializing with each other when they weren’t moving as a unit from one spot to another. I felt no tension anywhere, notwithstanding the morning attack in Baton Rouge. I saw no protesters, save for a lone spokesman manning a sign calling for support of the Kurdish struggle.

I was taken aback a bit as I prepared to enter the Hilton and was greeted by this sign:

I did not find such inhospitality at any of the other hotel lobbies I passed or entered, including the Drury, which I was scouting for an old college chum who plans to pass through town sometime this fall. I can’t say I was charmed by what they’ve done with the lobby. All that marble seemed austere. [Note: the marble isn’t new. The Drury, which opened earlier this year, is a conversion of the old Cleveland Board of Education building. I did see an efficient, welcoming and hard-working staff in operation.]
Akron SWAT team members in University Circle

I circled back through the mostly empty [as always] Arcade, a building that every visitor should experience, before taking the Healthline back uptown. When I got to University Circle, I saw a SWAT team and a police squad from Akron, perhaps returning from dinner somewhere on the Case campus. They were likely a few of the nearly 2000-person security contingent being housed on campus this week, a situation that produced such angst within the University community that the school has closed until the Convention is over.

Akron police in University Circle
Despite the extraordinary security precautions and momentous action about to be taken by the GOP this week, overall I sensed neither great drama nor tension. Perhaps it was the calm before the storm.

• • • • •