MMBC Continuum Executive Director Jozelle Booker (left) with Angel Price, regional director of Commercial Lending & Business Development for Liberty Bank and the guest speaker at the Robert R. Church Sr. Achievement Awards Luncheon. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley)

Hundreds turned out – in person – Wednesday (Nov. 17) for the Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum’s 2021 presentation of the Robert R. Church Sr. Achievement Awards Luncheon.

Last year’s event was a scaled-down version of the luncheon because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The luncheon’s keynote speaker was Angel Price, regional director of Commercial Lending & Business Development for Liberty Bank, which recently purchased Memphis landmark Tri-State Bank. She shared Liberty’s vision for elevating the financial outlook of Memphians in minority and underserved communities.

Accounting for Tri-State Banks $100 million in assets, Liberty now has total assets of $1 billion.

“How did we get to a billion dollars?” Price asked. “We achieved that milestone through merger and acquisition, laid a charter in 1972 with only $2 million. We established a presence in Baton Rouge…then in Jackson, MS, and the Greater Kansas City, MO, Market…”

Liberty is “more than just a bank,” said Price. “We are a member of the CDFI, Community Development Financial Institution.…Because I am from this community, I feel a responsibility to figure it out…”

Price said low credit scores and low-income present challenges to minority businesses and families who have in the past resorted to predatory lenders. Liberty’s focus will be on “figuring it out” for the disadvantaged trying to buy homes and fund businesses.

“With the acquisition of Tri-State Bank, I am, in my own way, continuing the work that was started by so many people before me,” said Price. “I stand on the shoulders of Robert R. Church. I stand on the shoulders of Dr. J.E. Walker…and I am excited to pass on the work that they started.”

MMBC Continuum Board Chair, Pastor Keith Norman, touted the benefits of entrepreneurial enterprises and encouraged others to think in terms of creating their own business opportunities.

“Moving forward together and positioning the Memphis community, and elevating all people to a place … where not only will those who serve the meals be able to enjoy them, those who clean the houses are able to live in them,” Norman said. 

“The MMBC Continuum and the Tennessee Minority Business Development Business Center, we’re focused on insuring that you have those opportunities … and that you’re not just laboring on behalf of others. But that the fruit of your labor, the rewards of your labor … will benefit even the generations to come.”

MMBC Continuum Executive Director Jozelle Booker touted the organization’s work to support minority-owned businesses in Memphis. 

The awards were named for the late business leader and philanthropist Robert R. Church Sr., who is renowned as the first African-American millionaire in the South.

The Tennessee Valley Authority was named Corporation of the Year at the Robert R. Church Sr. Achievement Awards Luncheon. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley)

The Tennessee Valley Authority was named Corporation of the Year from a finalists’ group that also featured Shelby County Schools and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.

Others honored were:

  • MBDA (Minority Business Development Agency) Business of the Year –Castle Black Construction, Inc. Finalists in the running were Fresh Start Facility Services, Inc., and Unistar-Sparco Computers, Inc.
  •  Scalable M/WBE (Minority/Women Business Enterprise) Business of the Year – ACTION Janitorial Paper Safety, which competed with finalists Electronic Responsible Recyclers, LLC and The Ransomed Group, Inc.
  • M/WBE Quality Assurance Business of the Year – ACTION Janitorial Paper Safety. Finalists were Oteka Technologies and SKB Facilities & Maintenance Inc.