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In keeping with the tradition of honoring African American entrepreneurs who have made tremendous gains in their industries, the third annual Black Enterprise/NationsBank Entrepreneurs Conference will present the B.E. Small Business Awards.
The awards ceremony is a major highlight of the three-day event, which will be held May 6-10 at Disney’s Contemporary Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
After a meticulous, six-month nomination process, candidates were selected in four categories. Meet this year’s potential winners:
BUSINESS INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR
This award honors companies that have successfully set trends and broken new grounds in their industries.
GUICO Machine Works
David Guidry has come a long way since his boyhood days on a small farm. The 40-year-old president of Guico Machine Works Inc. has grown his $2 million enterprise from a machine shop into a specialized manufacturer of precision machine parts.
The 35-employee company, based in Harvey, Louisiana, is engaged in business with the defense, petrochemical and original equipment manufacturing industries. In addition to supplying parts to such companies as Bell Aerospace, Guico provides replacement parts for equipment no longer manufactured for Boeing B-52 bombers.
The 101 Group
Imagine a desk that seats four people and that has reversible panels with a grid for building blocks on one side and a map of the United States on the other. This is just one of the functional creations by The 101 Group, a Houston-based firm that designs, manufactures and distributes instructional furniture.
The 101 Group is the brainchild of 46-year-old Burnett Nelson, a former chemist with Dow Chemical and a licensed registered representative with the New York Stock Exchange. Clients include Head Start, the federal preschool program, and public school systems in Texas, Florida and Illinois. Now seven years old, the firm grossed $275,000 in revenues in 1997.
T/J Technologies of Ann Arbor, Michigan is a cutting-edge developer of lithium-ion batteries, fuel cells and ultracapacitors, a product likened to a rechargeable battery that has potential for use in power tools, cellular phones, automobiles and other items. T/J has more than $4.5 million in contracts from commercial and government agencies, including the Armed Forces, Department of Energy and NASA.
The company was founded in 1991 by husband-and-wife Levi and Maria Thompson. Maria, the president, is a former IBM marketing representative. She has an M.B.A. from the University of Michigan, where Levi, the CEO, is a tenured professor of chemical engineering. The 17-employee firm grossed $1.5 million in revenues in 1997. It holds a patent and has several pending for proprietary electronic materials.
EMERGING CO. OF THE YEAR
This award honors businesses that are poised for future growth by carving out a well-hidden niche, adopting creative marketing techniques, or strategically capitalizing on general market opportunities.
Eight years ago, Deborah Proctor launched Acorn Services, a food service business. The Florham Park, New Jersey-based company had revenues of $10 million in 1997. Proctor, who holds a degree in dietetics, has roughly 250 employees and some 13 active accounts, including AT&T and Lucent Technologies. Acorn provides these companies with catering, cafeteria and employee dining services.
Environmental Design Intl
Deborah Sawyer has