From its move to a 4,000-squarefoot office space in the Lloyd Center to its newfound capacity to serve other areas of the state, NAMC-OR marked 2022 as a year of growth in several ways.
The organization added staff and expanded its services for members, leading to the move to the Lloyd Center that provides additional space in Northeast Portland and increases its accessibility to members, partners and others in the community. NAMC-OR now has two incubator spaces for technical assistance trainings and one-on-one services.
While NAMC-OR has previously focused its services on the Portland metro area, its partnership with Business Oregon has allowed it to grow its capacity and expand its training and advocacy into Central Oregon, the mid-Willamette Valley and Polk County.
“NAMC has always had the experience and expertise that people are requesting, but now it has the capacity to fulfill that demand and truly start working statewide,” said John Jackley, Strategy and Program Consultant, adding its membership and partner lists are growing and requests for its assistance is increasing across the state.
Building on grant funding it has received from Business Oregon since 2020, NAMCOR this year received $299,000 that extends through June 30, 2023. It used the funding to create a series of group trainings and events via NAMC University through its partnership with AGC.
In January 2021, Business Oregon awarded NAMC-OR an $83,000 grant to continue supporting BIPOC contractors through the following June. During that period NAMC-OR provided 480 hours of assistance to 18,893 contractors in group sessions (896 in small groups as a subset of the total), and at least 54 contractors in individual 1:1 assistance.
NAMC-OR’s goal of improving economic equity for Black-owned businesses across the state took another step forward through its collaboration with the Portland Business Alliance in launching the Black Business Association of Oregon (BBAO) and hiring its executive director, Lance Randall.
The effort to develop BBAO was a true public-private partnership which, by the summer, had raised nearly $1 million in grants and contributions from businesses, philanthropic institutions and public-sector partners.
Molly Washington, NAMC-OR’s Chief Operating Officer, highlighted its support of two members who went through Energy Trust of Oregon’s Contractor Development Pathway. The process helped them define how the program would benefit their business and connected them with training and networking opportunities. Both members also received a $4,000 stipend for business development and growth, which aided them in identifying their business needs and accessing resources. One member used the stipend to develop a website for their company, and another used it for financial consulting support for business growth.
This year also marked a return to in-person gatherings, including the Family Reunion BBQ in July. “That was a lot of fun and a nice event for members to come together. The feedback we got is that it really felt like a family BBQ. People hung out for the whole time,” Washington said.
Creating space, both in-person and virtual, where members feel safe to be vulnerable was another of NAMC-OR’s goals for 2022 that was accomplished through Virtual Office Hours and the Native Construction Circle. Washington started Virtual Office Hours to share the legal knowledge she gained in her previous work as a construction and transactions attorney with members who had questions about how to not only deal with legal issues, but improve their business practices overall.
“The legal system should be accessible to anybody, but it has evolved with barriers to people having access to rights because they can’t afford it. I wanted to create a way that I could share with the community all these things that I had acquired,” she said. “What I didn’t realize when we started this is how it would become a community space.”
Each Friday from 10 a.m. to noon, NAMCOR’s members and staff team are invited to join the Virtual Office Hours for a group conversation. Members can join Washington in a breakout room for one-on-one discussions about issues that are impacting their businesses. Increasingly, members began sharing their perspectives and advice during the group gathering and the conversation started to grow.
Conversations have ranged from racism and discrimination to life balance and gratitude to breastfeeding and raising children.
The Native Construction Circle was established to create a community for Native members of the construction industry, and not just business owners but anyone who has a connection with the industry and identifies as Native or Indigenous.
The focus of this group on the Native or Indigenous experience provides NAMC-OR insight into the unique aspects of their reality within the industry, which then equips NAMC-OR with the knowledge necessary to advocate in support of Native contractors and to engage in collaborative group advocacy for all NAMC-OR members.
As part of this work, NAMC-OR has partnered with the Oregon Native American Chamber to broaden connections and create a forum where people can talk about issues that are important to the Native community, representing as many different perspectives as possible.
“It’s a really nice space to feel validated and connected and, for some of us, it’s the only place where we can feel in community with other Native folks. So it services the soul and it’s also a space where we can ask each other questions,” said Washington, Apache/N’dee descendent, Chair of the Native American Youth and Family (NAYA) Center’s Board of Directors, and Vice-Chair of the NAYA Action Fund.
Executive Director Nate McCoy said that while NAMC-OR is celebrating its successes in 2022, it also is looking ahead to the coming year and more opportunities to enjoy shared prosperity with its members, partners and the community as a whole.
That includes collaborating with other organizations such as KAIROS, the Native American Youth and Family Center, Constructing Hope, Architecture Foundation of Oregon, the DJC’s Women of Vision Awards, 3v3ryDay Grind, Juneteenth, and the Good in the Hood Parade, among others.
“We look at it with the village mentality where everybody benefits, everybody is supported and everybody is accountable,” McCoy said. “When there are ups and downs and twists and turns, through faith you can get through any obstacles. I feel like I’m seeing that more and the vision is clearer to me, our board and our community.”
He noted that, in terms of economic prosperity, NAMC-OR is seeing a growing number of its members win some of the biggest contracts they ever have. Through collaboration and NAMC-OR’s support, they have the resources they need to carry out those scopes of work. Part of that collaboration is that NAMC-OR itself has grown as a small business and is able to share its experience and lessons learned with its members. Its strategic plan can help guide business development plans for members as they consider their vision for their company 10 to 20 years down the line, what kind of organization they want to have and how they want to operate.
That process also includes the ability to have honest conversations about the challenges of running a business and weak areas that need to be strengthened. “What we do that stands out is that we provide a safe space for our members to be vulnerable and talk about difficult issues they are facing as business owners.”
McCoy noted the importance of renewing the mind, body and spirit as the new year approaches and advised member to think about where they are now and where they are headed in the future.
He added that accountability will continue to be a central focus for NAMC-OR in 2023 as it encourages its partners to consider how they engage with members, provide safe spaces and create an atmosphere that allows them to find the words they need to express themselves.
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