Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Fresno's Ethnic Professionals under 40: Changing the way we think about leadership

Last week Business Street, a local business newspaper announced their list of “top business professionals in the private and public sectors in central California who are leaders in the community, and have experienced great success before the age of 40”. Of the 40 individuals listed, only nine were of color. This say one of two things: (a) this is another example of how ethnic minorities are excluded from mainstream media messages and the dominant culture’s concept of power and success; or (b) there is continued concentration of real power and influence amongst Caucasians in a community that is 55% comprised of Blacks, Hispanic/Latinos and Southeast Asians. One would hope those undesirable traits of previous generations would not be passed on as a rite of passage as our age bracket proclaims to stand at a higher level of equity and social justice.

Some satisfy their internal struggle of being perceived as socially equitable when developing comprehensive lists such as these or collecting community data by stating they aren’t aware of members of disconnected, disenfranchised or minority groups (it’s the same rationale used by those over 40 to exclude those under 40 from the conversation). OK….. why don’t you? With access to the internet, six local cambers and business associations of which four are ethnic based, and the thousands of ethnic business owners alone the age of ignorance is inexcusable. Even if none of those resources existed, one could make a good ol’ fashion telephone call to a few knowledgeable people of color in their network (there is an assumption there) as I did to come up with these individuals:

Debbie McKenzie, came to the Valley four years ago as a AmeriCore VISTA and now works under the County Administrator’s Office as the coordinator of the County of Fresno’s Gang Taskforce.

Dwayne Ferguson, owner of Overcolor Print & Design and developer of, a nationwide black business directory and search engine

Darrell Stamps & Veda Ramsay-Stamps, formerly the County Housing Manager and City Council Budget Analyst, they are now managing partners of Catalyst Development and The Ramsay Group whose clients include The California Endowment, City of Fresno, and The Redevelopment Agency and Fresno Works for Better Health. Veda is the co-chair of the City’s 10X10 Housing Taskforce.

Crystal Smith, City of Fresno management analyst who administered the City’s $9M CDBG funds now working in the Mayor’s Office as a budget analyst.

Terence Frazier, Frazier Realty. FSU and professional baseball athlete turned owner/broker/real estate developer. Terence seats on the board of the Central Valley Business Incubator.

Sandy Cha* is the local Community Development Officer for Wells Fargo Bank and sits on Wells Fargo Asian Business Services Strategic Advisory Board. Sandy is on the board of the Fresno County Women’s Chamber of Commerce and a graduate of Leadership Fresno.

Yammilette Gutierrez Rodriguez, government relations liaison for PG&E and the former Director of Admissions at Fresno Pacific University

Lawrence D. Garcia, since taking over his father’s business in 2000, he has grown AmeriGuard Security to a $4M private security company with 12 times the number of employees. AmeriGuard is one of the largest locally-Hispanic owned businesses that employs 180 Valley residents and has been featured on the Hispanic Business 500 List and in The Business Journal’s Book of List. Lawrence is the treasurer of the Central CA Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a member of Chief Dyer’s Advisory Board.

Rev. Shane Scott* is the newly installed pastor of largest African-American church in the greater Fresno area, Saints Rest Baptist Church with over 1100 members. He is overseeing an onsite 20,000 sq. ft expansion that will include a new recreational and community center. Because of his work in the SF Bay Area before moving to Fresno, he is well connected and resourced nationally.

Silas Cha is the associate director at Fresno Center for New Americans serving the Valley’s 30,000 plus refugee community. Silas leads Hmong-American Concerned Citizens and is a recognized advocate in health care and refugee-related issues. This UC Berkeley alumus is a graduate of Great Valley Center’s IDEAL program and sits on the regional advisory board for the Central Valley Health Policy Institute.

Marcus Davis & Nickolas Crawford* of Creative Solutions Marketing Group is one of the upcoming marketing solutions firms being incubated by the Central Valley Business Incubator. But don’t think these guys are beginners. With clients from CSU Fresno, Cool Hand Luke’s and the National Baptist Convention of America. Not sure if you’ve their work? Think about the Bruce Bowne Foundation, FWCED or Cooper River Ranch websites, the website and materials for the Worlds Aparts, Future Together Summit (Fall 2006), CSUF Football tickets… that’s Creative Solutions.

Tate Hill*, former Vice President of Program Services at Fresno West Coalition for Economic Development who helped bring $1.1 M of new grants to southwest Fresno, finalized the West Fresno Association serving over 350 Empowerment Zone residents with access to the Fresno County Federal Credit Union and participated in the launch of African-American micro loan fund through Valley Small Business Corporation. Tate was the founding chair of Creative Fresno and member of the Mayor’s Creative Economy Council. Currently, he is the Central Valley Vice President for Youth Leadership Institute.

* under 30


Anonymous said...


Part of your arguementis the percentage of people of color in Fresno, and the smaller percentage who were chosen in the Top 40 Under 40. Why is it that your list is dominated by African Americans, when only 5-7% of Fresno is that particualr ethnic category? If representation is the goal, then, Latinos would make up the vast majority of your list and there would be twice as many Asian-Americans (probably Southeast Asians) ast the are African americans. Or, it is possible that you are looking through diversity through your own lens?


Anonymous said...


I applaud your effort to raise awareness on the issue of ethnicity in terms of recognizing members of the central valley community, but I would say why stop there - for example why is it that the 40 under 40 list is so predominately represented by Fresno County (and Fresno) when Business Street serves three other counties? This list and others like it should be taken with a grain of salt and kept in perspective. They are flawed just like all of us and we can only hope that they bring discussion of successes for those listed, for those not listed, and for those yet to be listed. If you think formulation of the list should be changed there is a mechanism to do so - nominate someone(s) via their website. 40 under 40 nominations deadline is 12/6/08.

The list developers having access to and utilizing the internet and other networks to garner their list is important, but that road works two ways and I hope you reach out to them as well.

Your comment is very well taken - if the list is reflective of the population then African-Americans would barely make up 1 - 3 persons on the 40 under 40 lists. I can only guess that Tate's "lens" was based on a social network of contacts he could draw from immediately. Myself I would have trouble determining who in my networks were actually under 40.

Lastly a quick correction on the post: I actually came to the valley in 1999 as a Program Manager in the state office of Friday Night Live in Tulare County. In 2003 I joined AmeriCorp* VISTA as part of a career change to expand beyond youth development and substance abuse prevention, and to help cover expenses to complete my Masters degree. Following my service I began working in Fresno at The California Endowment and most recently became the Gang Task Force Coordinator for County of Fresno. I got married in 2007 and moved from Visalia to Fresno.

- Debra McKenzie

West Words said...

Thanks for your comments. I have spoke with the staff of both the Business Street and the Business Journal about the Lists they put togeher for the 40 Under 40, the Top 100 Women in Business, and the Journal's Minority-Owned Businesses.

They both mentioned the lack of response from the African-American as it pertained Lists. As a part of In the Black e-newsletter, I have encouraged readers to nominates worthy indivisduals and businesses along with providing information on how to do so. Debbie, thanks for the 2008deadline information.

I was glad to see most of the women I mentioned in list included in the Street's Top 100 Women in Business.