PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The new Black Business Association – Oregon is just starting to take off and its newly-hired executive director hopes it will be a model for similar programs across the country. 

The Black Business Association – Oregon aims to advocate for and promote the successful development of Black-owned businesses in the state. The hiring of its executive director, Lance Randall was announced Monday. 

“I am very excited about this opportunity and the support from all over the city, all over the state, for this initiative,” Randall said in an interview with KOIN 6 News. “We have an opportunity to do something that’s miraculous.” 

Randall comes to Portland from Seattle, where he was the director of economic development for SouthEast Effective Development, a nonprofit with a mission to improve the quality of life in Southeast Seattle by making investments in housing, arts and economic development. Randall said the part of Seattle he worked in was one of the most diverse zip codes in the country and it gave him the opportunity to work with people from all over the world. 

Before SouthEast Effective Development, Randall worked for the Seattle Office of Economic Development. He started in development in 1995 in Macon, Georgia where he worked for the Macon Economic Development Commission. Over the decades, he’s worked in various economic development positions and he’s looking forward to bringing his skills to Portland. 

He said he saw an opportunity to expand the prosperity of Black-owned businesses in Portland after the protests that followed the death of George Floyd – the unarmed Black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer in 2018.  

“We’ve gotten everyone’s attention to the social justice calls. So now, the next step is to make sure that we put Black businesses, Black people as a whole, in a position where they can create wealth and where they can be able to do things that they feel that they’ve never been able to do before,” Randall said. 

He has big goals for the BBAO. As the COVID-19 pandemic eases and commerce returns to normal, Randall said he hopes to help local Black-owned businesses with marketing. He said people will need to know they’re still open and ready to serve. 

Staffing challenges have impacted all businesses in Oregon. Randall said the BBAO will help fill employee gaps and will provide workforce development opportunities to help businesses with employee retention. 

The BBAO will start in the Portland area, but Randall said he foresees it expanding as a resource throughout the state. He hopes the association can encourage Black entrepreneurs to start businesses in towns outside of the Portland metro area, in cities with populations of 50,000 or more or in other fast-growing parts of Oregon. 

He also plans to encourage out-of-state, Black-owned businesses to expand in Oregon. He says he’ll be recruiting them from across the country and asking them to take a look at the opportunities for their business in Oregon. He sees a lot of potential in Oregon for expanding franchises. 

“I’m pretty sure people love to have a Waffle House out here. That’s something that’s very popular down in Georgia, but that will be wonderful to have here,” he said. 

In addition to bringing in new Black-owned businesses, he wants to make sure the Black-owned businesses that are in Oregon stay in Oregon. He said that will require annual visits to business owners to see what they need and to help connect them to government or banking resources if necessary. 

Randall said Portland has already made progress since the George Floyd protests. He’s seen achievements from Black-owned businesses in the last couple years and credits the city for providing opportunities for their success. 

The Black Business Association – Oregon is a direct result of action taken by some Black board members of the Portland Business Alliance, Randall said. After the social justice uprising in May 2020, those board members issued a call to action and created a Black Economic Prosperity Agenda for the greater Portland region. 

This agenda aims to develop a regional Black Economic Prosperity dashboard to measure key metrics of Black economic prosperity in the region and better understand the current economic state of Black residents in the Portland area. The Portland Business Alliance hopes the metrics from this dashboard will help determine solutions to improve economic prosperity for Black residents.

The third part of the agenda was the establishment of the Black Business Association to help focus on the dashboard and find solutions.  

“As a founding member of the Black Business Association of Oregon, I am thrilled to welcome Lance Randall as its new Executive Director,” said Andrew Colas, President & CEO of Colas Construction, Inc. and a Portland Business Alliance board member who helped write the call to action in June 2020. 

Randall says investing in Black-owned businesses will help boost Oregon’s economy as a whole. He said just like all businesses, Black-owned businesses create jobs and generate tax dollars.

“I encourage everyone to participate in this effort because if the black community is strong and has a strong economic base, the entire economy is going to be stronger,” he said. 

Randall said the next step for the BBAO will be launching a website as a resource for Black businesses owners. He hopes this will be live in about 7 weeks. After that, the association will work on creating the dashboard to measure key metrics of Black economic prosperity in the region. He hopes this will be completed by the end of 2022. 

In the meantime, he said people are welcome to reach out to him now by emailing him at Lance@bbaoregon.org

Motus Recruiting, the National Association of Minority Contractors- Oregon Chapter, and the Portland Business Alliance worked together to hire Randall. 

“I’m just pleased to have the opportunity to lead this effort and I’m excited about what’s going to happen in the future,” Randall said.