2012 Award Winners

Abe Venable Legacy Award for Lifetime Achievement

The Honorable Silvestre Reyes, U.S. House of Representatives (TX-16)

The Honorable Silvestre ReyesCongressman Silvestre Reyes represents the people of El Paso, Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives. Since first serving in the Army in 1966, he has dedicated four decades of his life to public service. Silvestre Reyes was born and raised in Canutillo, Texas and he is the first of 10 children. He served in the Army from 1966 – 1968, and fought in the Vietnam War as a helicopter crew chief in the 282nd Combat Assault Helicopter Company known as “the Blackcats.” Following his service in Vietnam, he joined the United States Border Patrol as an agent in 1969. In 1996, the people of El Paso sent Reyes to Washington, D.C. to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and he was elected for an eighth term in 2010. With his extensive experience and expertise in border security, Reyes is an influential leader on issues involving immigration and border security. Congressman Reyes has been a key supporter of the Medical Center of the Americas and was a strong supporter of the historic passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2009.

Reyes is a founder and chair of the House Congressional Diversity and Innovation Caucus. In addition, he has worked with his peers in the House to strengthen K-12 education by advocating for Title I funding increases, Impact Aid, IDEA resources, and comprehensive education policies that strengthen the school lunch program, expand literacy, and promote parental involvement. Silvestre and his wife, Carolina, have been married for more than 40 years. They have three children: Monica, Rebecca, and Silvestre, Jr. They are also the proud grandparents of Amelia, Mateo, Julian, and Orlando.


Alka Dhillon, Founder and CEO, Technalink (McLean, VA)

Alka DhillonAlka Dhillon, Founder and CEO of Technalink, has a wealth of strategic market penetration and development experience with a background in business development and expansion and growth strategy. Prior to founding Technalink, Ms. Dhillon was the Director of Business Development at Butler International, an Information Technology Consulting Firm, where she was responsible for all new business development and management of existing clients.

Ms. Dhillon was recently recognized as one of the Top 100 Women leaders in STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology and Math). Ms. Dhillon is actively involved and passionate about NFTE – Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship. She is a firm believer that the children are our future and it is through entrepreneurship that they can realize their dreams and deepest intentions. Ms. Dhillon holds a B.S. in Economics and Spanish from the University of Virginia.


Andrea L. Harris, Co-Founder and President, North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development (Raleigh, NC)

Andrea L. HarrisAndrea Harris is a co-founder and President of the North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development. The Institute works to build the asset base of underutilized and underdeveloped populations through economic development strategies that build businesses, create jobs, and sustain institutions vital to a vibrant economic environment. Previously, Ms. Harris directed a national strategy to address problems of older adults, and led a three county community action agency.

Andrea is a member of the NC Economic Development Board and has served on this board since 2000. She is a member of the National Advisory Board for the Institute for Emerging Issues, Economic Development chair for the NC NAACP State Conference of Branches, NC Rural Center board, Research Triangle Regional Partnership Board, and the Bennett College Board of Trustees. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Andrea has received numerous awards as has the Institute.


Deborah Scott Thomas, President and CEO, Data Solutions & Technology, Inc. (Lanham, MD)

Deborah Scott ThomasIn 1994, Deborah Scott Thomas founded Data Solutions & Technology Incorporated (DST). The company, headquartered in Lanham, Maryland, provides a full spectrum of professional services in Information Technology, Aviation Management, Logistics and Operations, Management Support, and Scientific and Technology Support. Ms. Thomas retired as a colonel from the United States Air Force Reserve after serving her country for three decades. She has worked for Fortune 100 companies as well as small businesses. Her overall combination of ongoing education, significant training, extensive business background, personal high standard of ethics, and limitless enthusiasm forms the cornerstone of DST and its winning formula for “Developing Solutions for Tomorrow.”

Deborah Scott Thomas is a native of Montgomery, Alabama. She graduated from Alabama State University (ASU) with a bachelor of science in accounting and management in 1974. She received her United States Air Force commission as a second lieutenant from ASU’s Detachment 019 in 1975. She earned a master’s in public administration in 1977 from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri.


Andrew Wells, President, Wells Technology (Bemidji, MN)

Andrew WelssAndy’s business, Wells Technology, began with a passion to help others and an investment of $1,300, which was his total life savings. Manufacturing precision metal products became the specialty of Wells Technology and new products were developed and patented. Today, Wells Technology has grown to $13 million in assets and 47 employees.

In 2006, Andy founded Wells Academy, a 501(c)(3) non-profit industrial training school for Native Americans. This is a paid apprentice program which encourages positive-life values while providing marketable job skills to Native Americans. As a leader in his community, Andy serves local and state economic development boards and is a mentor to other entrepreneurs. Andy has received recognition through the “National American Indian Business of the Year” award, the “USA HUB Zone Award”, the “Minnesota Small Business Person of the Year” award, and the Minnesota “Martin Luther King” award. For using success to do significant good, Andy was invited to the White House and personally congratulated by President Obama.


Ronald H. Brown Leadership Award

Dr. Louis B. Lynn, President, ENVIRO AgScience, Inc. (Columbia, SC)

Dr. Louis B. LynnDr. Louis B. Lynn’s company, ENVIRO Ag Science, Inc., was established in 1985 and is now the largest African American-owned landscape firm in South Carolina. His company also has a construction division which is among South Carolina’s largest African American-owned construction firms.

Early in his entrepreneurial career, Lynn was challenged to own a socially responsible firm and from a public perspective to “pay his civic rent.” His civic engagement includes election to six four-year terms on the Clemson Board of Trustees since 1988. Additionally, he has served on the boards of the S.C. Workforce Investment, the State Chamber of Commerce, the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, the S.C. Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics, the Palmetto Agribusiness Council, the Midlands Business Leadership Council, the State Museum Foundation, the S.C. Horticulture Society and the S.C. Commission of Higher Education.

The Darlington County native was in the second freshman class to integrate Clemson University, where he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Horticulture. He earned his Ph.D. in Horticulture at the University of Maryland. Prior to starting the company in 1985, Lynn worked as a research scientist at Monsanto developing the Roundup® herbicide.

Access to Capital Award

Accion (New Mexico • Arizona • Colorado)

Accion New Mexico-Arizona-Colorado has a long track record of innovation in creating greater access to capital. It was the first member of the Accion U.S. Network to introduce loans for start-up businesses. It pioneered a unique relationship with banks wherein bankers close Accion loans at local retail locations, and it created a first of a kind for-profit subsidiary LLC to house loan portfolio capital investments. From January through September 2011, an estimated 936 jobs were supported by Accion borrowers, adding critical infusions of income to the households of clients and their employees. Most recently, the organization held top ranking in the Accion U.S. Network in 2011 for efficiency, as measured by loans per full-time employee and the quality of the loan portfolio being strong with a repayment rate of more than 93 percent.

Anne Haines Yatskowitz, President & CEO
Albuquerque, New Mexico


Economic Development Bank for Puerto Rico (EDBPR)

The Economic Development Bank for Puerto Rico (EDBPR) was created with the goal of promoting the development of the private sector of the economy of Puerto Rico, by providing loans, loan guarantees and equity investments to private organizations, for profit or not, devoted to manufacturing, commerce, agriculture, tourism and other service enterprises, giving preference to the small and medium size entrepreneurs. The bank has been leading a unique role in stimulating loan activity within the small and medium business enterprise community in Puerto Rico.

Their loans specifically help create and retain jobs in Puerto Rico. Since its creation, the bank has assumed a leadership position in the development and financing of small and medium local enterprises from the different economic sectors, strengthening Puerto Rico’s economy through a reinvestment in the communities. Their loan products include: Direct Loans, New Entrepreneurs Loans, Agricultural Development Product, The Women Entrepreneurs Product, Desarrollo para el Pueblo, Private Bank Participation Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Since 1986, EDBPR has grown to $1.8 billion in total assets, with a $260.5 million loan portfolio and has a total of 143 employees.

Ivonne Otero Guzmán, President
San Juan, Puerto Rico