Honoring minority businesses

Minority Enterprise Development Week is a national celebration of the contributions and successes of minority-owned businesses.

This year’s local festivities start on Monday, Sept. 27, with a speech by the Rev. Kenneth Ray Hammond at the Breakfast Seminar at the Howard Johnson’s restaurant on Hendersonville Road. Also on Monday, a golf tournament sponsored by the Eagle/Market Streets Development Corp. will take place at the Grove Park Inn Resort, beginning at 11:30 a.m. In addition, there will be an open house at One Oak Plaza, in the grass area along College Street, with displays from associated organizations, plus entertainment and refreshments.

On Wednesday, Sept. 29, a seminar called “Selling to the Government” will be led by Stephanie Coleman of the Mountain Microenterprise Fund, Randall Patton of the Small Business and Technology Development Center, and Barbara Freeman of the U.S. Small Business Administration. The annual Awards Banquet (on Thursday, Sept. 30) will feature a keynote speech by Civil Rights Director Teresa Banks of the Federal Highway Administration. Awards will be presented to the outstanding minority retailer, wholesaler, service and construction companies and the entrepreneur of the year. To make reservations for the banquet, call 252-2516. The cost is $20.

For more info, call 252-2516.

Equal opportunity for contractors

Further evidence of recent progress by local minority-owned businesses can be found in a report released late last month by the N.C. Department of Administration. The report states that companies controlled by “historically underutilized businesses” (HUBs) have been winning a larger share of state contracts.

In the last two quarters, HUBs have been awarded more than 8 percent of state contracts for goods and services (including construction work); in previous quarters, their share had hovered between 5 and 6 percent. During the 1998-99 fiscal year, HUBs received 8.05 percent of contracts (worth more than $98 million) in the third quarter and 8.31 percent (worth nearly $68 million) in the fourth quarter. All told, the state paid more than $273 million to HUBs for services rendered during the fiscal year.

In April, Gov. Jim Hunt set a goal of increasing state business with HUBs from 4 percent to 8 percent of all contracts, by the end of 1999; by the end of next year, the goal rises to 10 percent. “We’ve worked hard to make sure all our companies have an opportunity to compete for state business,” Hunt said in a prepared statement. “We’ve placed bid opportunities on the Internet, paid our vendors within three days to ease cash-flow concerns, and increased our outreach to companies and state purchasers to encourage participation.”

To learn more, contact Priscilla Smith, director of public information, at (919) 807-2338.

From Alice to activist

Lest anyone doubt that truth really is stranger than fiction, consider this: The Environmental Federation of North Carolina, an umbrella organization for 27 local environmental nonprofits, recently announced that the chair of this year’s fund-raising campaign is none other than Linda Lavin, star of everyone’s favorite ’70’s sitcom, Alice.

Lavin, it seems, now teaches master classes in acting and singing for the stage in Wilmington, N.C., where she founded the Linda Lavin Arts Foundation. The foundation’s main focus is fostering the advancement of the visual arts, particularly through education. But one of the group’s projects is a theater program called “Girl Friends,” designed to raise the self-esteem of at-risk, teenage, inner-city girls, suggesting that Lavin’s energies have lately turned to activism. According to an EFNC media release, the actress got involved with the federation in 1998, when she narrated the video People, Pigs and Politics: Cleaning up the Hog Industry in North Carolina. The video reportedly examines the causes of industrial hog pollution and explores various ways to address the problem.

Now, Lavin is encouraging North Carolinians to help protect our natural resources by supporting the Environmental Federation. “Our quality of life and the quality of life we are leaving for our children is dependent upon our environment,” Lavin says in the release. “We all rely on one another to protect this environment, for our health and for our children’s health. When you contribute to an Environmental Federation organization, you join thousands of North Carolinians who are helping to protect wildlife, save natural-heritage land, educate children about the environment, clean up rivers and streams and keep our air pure and healthy.”

For more information, contact Sidney Cruze at (919) 687-4840. For reruns of Alice, try your favorite cable channel.

Rabies alert

Recently, a young black bear on exhibit in a northeast-Iowa petting zoo died — of rabies. Rabies is a deadly disease, and state health officials are urging any N.C. residents who may have come in contact with the animal while on vacation to seek medical treatment immediately.

The bear, named Chief, was kept at the Swenson Wild Midwest Exotic Petting Zoo on the Rick Swenson farm near Clermont, Iowa. In the past month, up to 400 people are believed to have come in contact with the animal, including about 150 folks who attended an Aug. 14 barn warming near the town of Holy Cross. While merely touching or petting the bear would not have placed anyone at risk, contact with the animal’s saliva is a risk factor. If the bear’s saliva entered someone’s body through a cut, bite or body opening (such as the nose, eyes or mouth), that person could contract rabies. Because Chief was known to playfully nip and lick zoo visitors, Iowa health officials believe that such transmissions are likely to have occurred.

The bad news is that, if contracted, rabies is 100 percent fatal for humans. The good news is that only 24 people have died from rabies in the U.S. since 1981, and the last North Carolinian known to have died from rabies was in 1955, when a woman was bitten by a rabid dog. Still, the state Department of Health and Human Services advises anyone who has had contact with the bear since July 30 to contact their doctor immediately. Vaccine is the only way to prevent the disease, once contracted.

For more information, contact Bill Furney of the Department of Health and Human Services at (919) 715-4174.

Slow down, Asheville

With the constant influx of tourists and new residents, it’s not surprising that Asheville’s city streets might be feeling the pinch: Everywhere you go, there’s more traffic, more pedestrians and more people. In the coming weeks, however, a couple of meetings will be held to consider measures to offset some of the congestion and general traffic woes.

First, on Thursday, Sept. 16, at 6:30 p.m., at the North Asheville Community Center, citizens and the city’s Engineering Department will gather to discuss efforts to calm traffic on Lakeshore Drive; the city is proposing to install “speed humps” (not to be confused with the more aggressive “speed bumps”). The gentler humps, hopefully, will slow traffic down to a relatively safe speed.

“We’re experiencing traffic over 40 mph on a regular basis on Lakeshore,” said city Traffic Engineer Michael Moule in a recent phone interview. “The speed humps there are intended to slow traffic, and this will bring the average driver down to between 25 and 30 mph.”

Moule says the meeting’s primary purpose is to gather information. “I want to get some sense of how the public feels about this. The Lakeshore project has been going on for a while, but we’ll be implementing traffic calming throughout the city in the near future. We want to do this … as a sort of demonstration project,” he explained. The speed humps proposed for Lakeshore would be made of asphalt and be anywhere from 12 to 22 feet long, about 3 inches high, and parabolic in shape, said Moule.

The other upcoming meeting will consider the recent designation of Walnut Street as one-way to vehicular traffic. The city is proposing to make the temporary classification permanent.

“It’s one-way now, but that was only a temporary measure,” Moule explained. “I’ve only heard one or two negative comments about the whole thing, [while] I’ve had a whole lot more positive comments,” he noted.

This meeting will be held on Thursday, Sept. 23 at 6:30 p.m., in the Civic Center Banquet Room. All interested parties are encouraged to attend.

For more information, contact Moule at 259-5943.

— curdlingly compiled by Paul Schattel

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