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The divide

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Articles - July/August 2012
Monday, July 09, 2012


0712 TheDivide 05
Mike Green and son Josiah at Noble Coffee in Ashland. “I organize events and manage strategic relationships in between changing dirty diapers and watching impromptu dance routines,” he says.
// Photo by Jamie Lusch

For his part, Langeler says he recently was appointed to the Oregon Growth Board, a new umbrella group designed to coordinate activity at the state level to promote business growth and development. The urban innovation group “should absolutely have a place at the table,” he says.

Six months after the roundtable was first proposed, funding challenges have already led a number of community leaders to suggest Green define his objectives more clearly and consider separating out the education and entrepreneurship aspects of the project to better target and attract potential donors and participants, including foundations, universities and investors.

The roundtable “is very novel and worthy of pursuit,” says Jaymes Winters, CEO of Blue Leopard Capital, Oregon’s first minority-owned private-equity fund. “But it’s a tough row to hoe if you’re expecting the investment community to invest in something that is a matter of public policy or a think tank.”

Green says he is open to different options. “The mission is so important, we cannot allow the lack of funding to undermine or restrict our progress,” he says. “Between the time we started and now, we have exploded. We are drinking from a fire hose of opportunity across the nation.”

So back in Medford, where seeing another black person “is an unusual sighting,” he is going about the business of connecting the disconnected, working with Womack and Holifield on a second Minority Gathering of Angels event this fall, this time in Silicon Valley, and hooking up Montgomery to a FundingPost.com pitching event. And when New York-based television production company Al Roker Entertainment was looking for an African-American entrepreneur and family guy to feature, Green put them in touch with Ben Berry, CEO of AirShip Technologies Group, a Lake Oswego startup developing drones for the commercial market.

Green does have a long-term plan in mind for the roundtable, one that includes a clear organizational structure — a governing board and three working groups — and a national launch party, the National Urban Innovation Conference and STEM Expo that would be held in Portland and feature thought leaders from all over the country, including the White House, Silicon Valley and Silicon Forest.

Eventually the urban innovation roundtable pilot would be replicated in cities across the country, resulting in a nation transformed. “We see an innovation nation connecting an entire community: investors, innovators, all the way down to high schools,” Green says.

If that vision comes true, America21 will be an Oregon story for the ages, about an African-American man in Medford, a white city and the 21st-century black tech revolution.

Linda Baker is the managing editor of Oregon Business. She can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Correction: This article has been revised to reflect the following correction.  Between 2002 and 2007, 1.9 million black-owned businesses produced less than one percent of the gross domestic product and 1.8 million were sole proprietors. In the original article, those figures were reversed.



+3 #1 Founder & ChairGuest 2012-07-09 22:34:54
This is a timely article on the need for investment in the black business community with an interesting twist what with the profilee being black in a prominently white section of Oregon. I agree he's on to something big in weaving so many seemingly disparate slices of the same elements together. I only wish oregonians would organize themselves around a table and agree to fund Project 21 parts by treating it as a whole rather than advising Green to break it down to attract disparate funders. The thing about funders is, when left to their own devices, tend to forget to value community responsibility as a equal weight to expected ROI. Green is showing how to gain a return on both sides of the equation. What he needs is to have the all prospective funding sources in the same room carving out which slice they want to fund as part of the whole idea as presented. Different times call for different approaches.
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+3 #2 PresidentGuest 2012-07-10 02:15:21
This provides a vision, which will open eyes of people like Mike who from K-12 are the future of this country. The census clearly shows the browning of America, we can no longer discount segments of our population as unnecessary. We must provide a pipeline into the capitalistic system, which powers our economy. Our children must see people who look like them enjoying the fruits of our economic system. Having a vested interest in it's success all parties will ride the economic tide that brings home all ships.

Jim Staton
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0 #3 HoustonianGuest 2012-07-18 05:13:22
The article was very informative and timely in this day and age. Good luck on this venture Mike Green.

Caroline A.
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+1 #4 Mark VonHolle - Board President, Sustainable Valley Technology GroupGuest 2012-07-18 06:41:09
Mike Green is one of the most gifted visionary and passionate civic minded professionals I have ever known. He is perfectly suited to eloquently articulate many of the social and underlying economic challenges facing disadvantaged communities across the U.S. His ability to build consensus among divergent groups is commendable. Mike is a genuinely humble servant leader and a great source of inspiration. Go Mike!!!
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0 #5 There's an app for that now!Guest 2013-04-09 23:03:55
I couldn't believe Apple accepted it, but there is now an app for supporting Mike's work.

Its premise is to connect "disconnected youth."

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