Personality: Gracetta Washington-Young

Spotlight on the new president of the Central Virginia Business and Construction Association

7/15/2016, 9:41 a.m. | Updated on 7/15/2016, 9:46 a.m.
Gracetta Washington-Young believes Richmond’s African-American and minority-owned businesses should have a greater voice in their own development.

Gracetta Washington-Young believes Richmond’s African-American and minority-owned businesses should have a greater voice in their own development.

As the new board president of the Central Virginia Business and Construction Association, Mrs. Washington-Young plans to help members of the 27-year-old association amplify their individual and collective voices and increase CVBCA’s visibility. “We can no longer depend on others to do for us what we can do for ourselves,” says Mrs. Washington-Young, who was installed in the leadership position in May.

“We need to find ways to create and be in control of our future. As we are developing a strategic plan and advocating for equal access and opportunity, we are teaching our members to utilize their businesses to contribute to the economic viability in the communities around them and the communities they live in.”

Founded in 1989, CVBCA promotes economic parity for minority-owned businesses. Most of the organization’s 125 member businesses represent the construction and service industries.

Under Mrs. Washington-Young’s leadership, CVBCA members are being encouraged to invest in communities by building partnerships with larger corporations and by giving back to the community through mentoring and training programs for area youths.

“Our goal is for CVBCA to be a positive change in our communities and to have a profound and lasting impact on the citizens in those communities.”

Such goals are important to help offset the disparities often found among minority businesses when seeking and securing contracts in the Richmond area, says Mrs. Washington-Young. She believes increased exposure to contracting opportunities will help offset such disparities.

Mrs. Washington-Young owns J&G Consulting Services LLC, which designs and constructs security systems for churches and develops workforce training programs for disadvantaged populations. She says that as the local economy continues to improve, more work will be available for the area’s skilled workforce.

“We want our members to be ready to take advantage of these opportunities as they become available,” says Mrs. Washington-Young.

Emphasis will be placed on members landing contracts for large-scale projects such as Dominion Resources Inc.’s new office tower at 111 S. 6th St. The new building is scheduled for completion in early 2019.

With a branding campaign for CVBCA in the works, along with an improved construction environment, Mrs. Washington-Young says the future is bright, particularly for women in the construction industry.

“There are plenty of opportunities for women in construction as owners and skilled workers,” she says. “The pay scale for construction workers is usually at a livable wage. With many women as the head of their household, this would be a great opportunity for them.”

This week’s Personality, Gracetta Washington-Young, is big on minority business:

Date and place of birth: Dec. 23 in Los Angeles.

Current residence: Chesterfield County.

Education: Attended Rock Valley College in Rockford, Ill.; 2009 graduate of Leadership Metro Richmond.

Family: Husband; J.D. Young; two daughters, Gracie Bogar and Jessica Givens; two step-daughters, Kimberly Young and Aalyia Golden; and four beautiful grandchildren.

CVBCA’s mission: To promote the values of economic parity between businesses owned by minorities and to further promote the advancement of those businesses in the mainstream economy with a primary focus on the construction and service industries.

Why I accepted the CVBCA top post: In all my endeavors, I strive to make a difference for those who have been denied access and opportunity to participate in growth and economic development. Accepting this position allows me to become that advocate on a much larger scale. In this role, I am able to utilize all of the training and skills that I have learned in corporate America to better position our African-American and other minority businesses to create our own model of community wealth building.

CVBCA’s No. 1 challenge now: Changing the image and culture of the organization. We want to attract all minority businesses, including younger, more youthful businesses as well as seasoned and more established businesses. In order to do this, we have hired Four Deep Media LLC to assist with branding and marketing. They have created our new logo and they are in the process of developing our website.

Strategy for achieving it: Making the organization visible through outreach and cultivating partnership with community partners. Our goal is for CVBCA to give back to our communities as we are building. Our strategic plan calls for us to partner with larger, more experienced corporations to mentor and assist. In addition, we will tap into the experience and capacity that exist within CVBCA to mentor our youths, train and provide education for our low-income population, as well as provide assistance for seniors and veterans.

Definition of leadership: A leader is someone who leads by example and has the integrity to do the right thing even if it is not popular. A good leader has positive influence over others and inspires and motivates others to do their best and become the best version of themselves.

Status of economic justice in Richmond: When you look at the current poverty rate, economic justice is a challenge for our citizens; our minority population is high. Building and supporting businesses in our African-American and minority communities is one of our commitments to our city. Having those citizens working and living in these communities will support jobs and allow these communities to grow and prosper.

Role of African-American contracting in push for economic justice: Our economy continues to improve from the recession. Opportunities in the construction arena are growing. The pace of projects will actually outpace the workforce and skilled persons needed. This creates an opportunity for our African-American and other minority construction companies to have access that would have been denied previously.

Clout of African-American consumer: African-Americans spend $1 trillion each year! Those dollars come into African-American communities and stay for less than one hour. Our money supports businesses that are not owned by African-American people, nor do these businesses support growth and opportunity in these communities.

How this clout can be maximized: By educating African-American citizens in these communities how to leverage black dollars through investing, owning and controlling their wealth to ensure it stays in their communities. We can educate African-American consumers how to use their resources wisely.

What public officials can do to advance economic justice: CVBCA works well with our public officials and the City of Richmond. We trust that they will support the goal and mission of our organization by allowing equal access to all opportunities as it relates to economic growth and development in the city.

Business is: Booming! It is an exciting game-changer for our communities.

Politics and business are: Often one and the same!

Status of African-American-owned businesses in Richmond: There are a significant number of African-American-owned businesses in Richmond. Unfortunately, they have not had the exposure needed to promote their growth.

Challenges to gain contracts from city: Ensuring that our members are qualified, trained and have the appropriate credentials, and that they understand the process.

Challenges to gain contracts from private owners: Access and opportunity. Often contractors aren’t aware of contracts that may be available. Making the CVBCA’s presence known will be beneficial for our members. Private owners are willing to hire African-American-owned companies when they can deliver the project on time, on budget and provide the level of quality work expected.

CVBCA’s level of participation with upcoming projects in Downtown area: We are excited about the Dominion Workplace Tower under construction in Downtown. Dominion has hired Clayco Development and Hourigan Construction. They were at our last membership meeting. We are excited about the positive economic impact this could have for our members and the African-American workforce. Dominion appears committed to cultivating this relationship.

Importance of African-American business in city’s revitalization plans: In a city that is 50 percent African-American, it is important to have African-American business owners and citizens participate in the process as well as included in the dialogue.

Interest of youths in contracting: There is an interest in construction for youths who may not want to attend a college or university. There are apprenticeship programs and trade and technical schools available for those interested in this profession.

Best late-night snack: Popcorn popped the old-fashioned way — on the stove.

Perfect day: Spending time with my grandchildren.

Perfect evening: Enjoying a bottle of wine on my deck watching the sunset.

No one knows that I: Can be spontaneous!

When people first meet me they think: I am younger than I am.

Person who influenced me the most: My first husband, Al Washington, who is now deceased. He taught me everything I know about business from the age of 18. He encouraged me to be fearless and never give up on my dreams.

Book that influenced me the most: “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne.

Book I’m reading now: “Leveraging the Universe: 7 Steps to Engaging Life’s Magic” by Mike Dooley.

The one thing that I’ve learned in life is: Change is inevitable and that we can have everything we desire.

Next goal: To travel the world. First destination, Africa.