Five Missouri firms and their mentors were recognized Nov. 14 for their work in advancing Missouri’s entrepreneurial fire with the University of Missouri system’s advocacy-mentoring program.
The 2012 Torch Awards marks the completion of an 18-month mentorship for this class.
The mentoring relationship is meant to increase the number of competitive minority- and women-owned firms that wish to do business with one of the University of Missouri’s four campuses.
Women- or minority-owned businesses are defined as business entities in which at least 51 percent of the ownership interest, stock or otherwise, is minority or woman owned.
Each business was paired with a mentor from a large firm, and three of the participants also worked with a team leader from one of the University of Missouri’s four campuses.
The Torch Awards were given to graduating mentees as well as their mentors and team leaders.
Among the five honorees was a team with university team leader Ted Ruth, director of design and construction at Missouri University of Science and Technology. The mentee on this team was Gayle Lackey, president of Lackey Sheet Metal, St. Louis, and the mentor was Adam Knoebel, vice president of operations, McCarthy Building Companies, St. Louis.
The Advocacy-Mentoring Program was launched at the recommendation of the university’s Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) Advisory Council, a volunteer group convened in 2008 to brainstorm ideas to increase the proportion of businesses owned by minorities and women that work with the university.
The UM system has seen growth in the ability of these businesses to compete, said Jacqueline Hall Kelly, Ph.D., director of minority business development with the UM system.
“We have seen increases in the percentage of minority- and women-owned businesses in nearly every area we measure,” Kelly said. “For example, in the last fiscal year, 17 percent of our architecture and engineering business went to minority-owned firms — double the portion we had seen in the previous four years.”
Kelly added that the program is guided by the principle that the university’s contractors should reflect the diversity of the system’s students, staff and the state of Missouri.
“This program aims to increase the potential supply of firms that can more effectively bid on university contracts while at the same time reinforcing our university’s values of respect and diversity and furthering our mission to advance Missouri’s economy,” Kelly said.