|The divide||| Print ||
|Articles - July/August 2012|
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BY LINDA BAKER
Every weekday morning, Mike Green gets up around 6 a.m. to feed his 14-month-old son, Josiah, a banana. Then he hands his son off to his wife, Emily, and is on the computer by 7:30, at which point he starts making conference calls and Skyping. He begins with his East Coast contacts and works his way west as the day progresses.
By the afternoon, he’s moved on to Portland and Silicon Valley. He usually works until late at night and into the early morning hours. Sometimes he works through the night.
The 50-year-old Green, who has been following a version of the same routine for more than a year, has yet to earn much money for his 24/7 labors. He works out of his home office, in this case, the living room of a three-bedroom rented apartment in Medford that he shares with Emily, Josiah and 12-year-old daughter, Madison.
Green’s financial circumstances may be modest, but the task he is working on is ambitious and wide-ranging. A cofounder of the America21 Project, an Ohio-based national nonprofit that was launched 18 months ago to seed urban black economic development, he wants to correct what he considers one of the critical problems facing this country: the disconnect between black America and today’s tech-driven innovation economy. In the past decade, much of the new wealth creation and job growth in the United States has occurred in the startup technology sectors. “But those types of innovations and market disruptions are not happening across black America,” says Green, who is also a part-time blogger. The reasons “are systemic, historical and institutional, and someone has to address it.”
Programs that try to alleviate the economic inequities plaguing African-American communities are nothing new. But America21 is one of the first groups to target high-tech and Internet ventures, and to try and create a comprehensive solution focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, as well as access to risk capital and “high-growth” entrepreneurship.
In the past year, America21 has generated a remarkable amount of attention and excitement locally and nationally, from community leaders in cities around the country to White House policymakers. The group’s rapid ascension is due in no small part to Green’s ability to wrap together disparate phenomena, from the achievement gap in K-12 education to the dearth of black angel networks, into a sweeping aspirational narrative about 21st-century wealth building in America’s inner cities.
“No one in recent memory has come out with such articulate, explicit connections,” says Patrick Quinton, the executive director of the Portland Development Commission (PDC), who met Green this past winter at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast hosted by The Skanner newspaper at the Oregon Convention Center. Green, the keynote speaker, had come to Portland because Portland business and community leader James Posey had read what he described as a “very exciting” editorial that Green had written a few months earlier for The Oregonian. “There’s a synergy to this idea, a way of putting things together, that is unique,” Posey says.
America21 is a national organization with national aspirations. But the America21 story is also a uniquely Oregon story, about a black guy helping orchestrate a leading-edge urban economic development movement from a “cow patch,” as Chad Womack, Green’s Philadelphia-based America21 colleague, describes Medford. In the coming year, the team also hopes to launch one of the organization’s breakout initiatives — an “urban innovation roundtable” — in Portland, a city often described as one of the whitest metropolitan centers in the country.
Organizing a movement from a rural Oregon home office — or coffee shop — is no easy task, acknowledges Green, who moved from Houston to Medford in 2004 to be closer to his wife’s family. But his physical, demographic and economic isolation is also representative of the issues America21 is confronting.
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Oregon Business magazine's 5th annual
100 Best Green Companies to Work For in Oregon
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
From Oregon Translational Research and Development Institute: OTRADI today announced its plans to open and operate a 13,000 square-foot multi-tenant bioscience complex in the Willamette Wharf building at 4640 SW Macadam Avenue. Slated to be complete in spring 2013, the OTRADI Bioscience Incubator (OBI) will house up to six companies.
MEDIAmerica, publisher of Oregon Business and Oregon Home magazines, announces a new retail website: HalfOffOregon.com. The website offers lodging, dining, recreation and many other items at half off their regular cost.
As you probably know by now, The Vernon Company is a national leader in the promotional products industry with annual sales of over $60 million. We are a family owned business, led by the fourth generation of the Vernon family.