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Author Archives: Matt Lara

About Matt Lara

Matt is the resident social media guru and website guy, working on the marketing and communications team. He supports GO Topeka, the Topeka Chamber of Commerce, Entrepreneurial & Minority Business Development, Forge and Heartland Visioning.
  1. Howey Receives Designation of Certified Economic Developer from IEDC

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    Molly Howey, director of business development, for GO Topeka, recently earned the International Economic Development Council’s designation of certified economic developer, a national recognition that denotes a mastery of skills in economic development, professional attainment and a commitment to personal and professional growth.

    Matt Pivarnik, president and chief executive officer of GO Topeka and the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce, said, “This designation validates Molly’s expertise and commitment to keeping current on all aspects of economic development, and we are lucky to have her on our team. It’s also a testament to the caliber of the professional staff that our economic development team brings to the region.”

    The CEcD designation recognizes qualified and dedicated practitioners in the field and sets the standard of excellence within the profession. Candidates must pass a rigorous and comprehensive examination, which has three parts and spans two days. The exam tests a practitioner’s knowledge, proficiency and judgment in the following key areas of economic development:

    • Business retention and expansion
    • Finance and credit analysis
    • Marketing and attraction
    • Strategic planning
    • Entrepreneurial and small business development
    • Managing economic development organizations
    • Neighborhood development strategies
    • Real estate development and reuse
    • Technology-led economic development
    • Workforce development strategies

    The IEDC is a nonprofit membership organization serving economic developers and has more than 4,700 members employed in local, state, provincial and federal governments, public-private partnerships, chambers of commerce, universities and a variety of other institutions.

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  2. Alorica Announces Philanthropic Alliance with Topeka Veterans as Company Continues Selection Process to Meet Expansion Goals

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    Alorica, a leading global provider of customer engagement services online, on mobile, on the phone and on social media, announced today that it is partnering with Military Veterans Project, a Topeka-based nonprofit dedicated to preventing suicides among military veterans and supporting medical research into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other issues affecting veterans. The company’s own customer engagement experts in Topeka will help the organization raise money to support medical research and Alorica is committed to volunteering at the non-profit organization’s events that are focused on raising awareness around these critical issues.

    The announcement came at a “Career Meet and Greet” hosted by Alorica at its Topeka location today as the company welcomed Mayor Larry Wolgast to the facility. The company is in the middle of a push to hire hundreds of customer engagement experts with a passion for technology and helping solve other people’s problems. In June, Alorica publicly announced that after its initial hiring phase that it had 200 career opportunities remaining open. That goal has since been raised to 350.

    “One of Topeka’s most noteworthy citizens was Harry Colmery, who created the GI Bill and did so much to improve the lives of veterans for whom we owe such a debt of gratitude,” said Mayor Larry Wolgast. “The company’s collaboration with a local veterans group will raise much-needed money for training and referral programs as well as for research and support services to reduce veteran suicide rates. We are thrilled the company will put its customer-service expertise toward shining a spotlight on veteran affairs and acknowledging their sacrifice and service on our behalf.”
    Ken Muche, director of global public relations for Alorica, said, “Alorica is a different type of company with a culture that celebrates making lives better one interaction at a time—with each other, with the customers we serve and in the communities where we live and work. Partnering with the Military Veterans Project is one example of our employees helping Topeka—by honoring veterans and letting them know that their service and sacrifices are appreciated and essential to our freedom and quality of life.”

    In June 2015, the Joint Economic Development Organization voted 7-0 to revise an incentive agreement with Alorica’s call center targeted at creating more than 100 jobs to accommodate a new contract with a Fortune 25 company. The agreement reduced a previous minimum threshold from 500 jobs to 300 jobs to qualify for payment, providing the company with $150,000 to remodel its facility and hire new workers.

    JEDO’s investment in Alorica has not only positioned the company for competitive growth but also the Topeka community through significant job creation.

    “By treating its customers well, Alorica has continued to attract high-caliber clients who benefit from a regional workforce known for its work ethic and friendliness,” Wolgast said.

    “Alorica’s commitment to its workforce, its customers and the Topeka community is commendable, and we are pleased that GO Topeka and JEDO were able to help facilitate a collaboration that led to their commitment to the Topeka community,” said Scott Griffith, GO Topeka chair.

  3. Smathers to Leave GO Topeka in October

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    MEDIA RELEASE – June ­­­28, 2016      

    Contact: Kim Gronniger, Chamber, 785.234.2644

    Smathers to Leave GO Topeka in October

     Scott Smathers, vice president of economic development for GO Topeka, announced today that he will be leaving the organization early in October.

    Smathers, who has worked for GO Topeka for nearly three years, said, “I have enjoyed working and living in Topeka and collaborating with so many organizations, elected officials and other individuals committed to the area’s economic prosperity. We have a very strong staff with excellent momentum underway, and I’m proud to have been a part of that.”

    Before joining GO Topeka, Smathers worked as vice president of the Denison Development Alliance and the Denison Industrial Foundation in Denison, Texas, for 10 years. Before that, he spent 19 years employed by a retail analysis and consulting company in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he worked with various industries around the world.

    “Although my family and I have been happy to call Topeka home, I am eager to explore some additional opportunities that have come about recently through my contacts in other communities,” he said. “In order to do that effectively, I believe that it’s best to be upfront about my intentions.”

    As GO Topeka board members and employees prepare for the organization’s 2018-2022 strategic plan, Smathers said it made sense to give the GO Topeka team advance notice that he did not anticipate remaining in the community through the strategic plan’s next phase.

    “This is a pivotal time for Topeka, and we appreciate and respect Scott’s candor and flexibility in assisting us through the next three months as we begin preliminary work to take Topeka and Shawnee County to the next level,” said Matt Pivarnik, president and chief executive officer of GO Topeka and the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce. “Scott is well-respected in the economic development community and any city in the country would be lucky to have his expertise. We are thankful for all of Scott’s great contributions to our area’s growth and vitality and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

    Mayor Larry Wolgast said, “Scott has played a valuable role during his tenure in Topeka and we have benefited significantly from his efforts. In the past two years, we’ve announced more than 500 jobs and more than $200 million in capital investment for our community and we anticipate more announcements in the near future.”

    Scott Griffith, chair of the GO Topeka board of directors, said, “Scott’s leadership and vision helped us expand GO Topeka programs and launch new initiatives specifically designed to support small businesses, including 712 Innovations, a new incentive program to help participants purchase equipment and training and the Washburn University pitch contest collaboration.”

    “Scott’s input and involvement have enabled Topeka and Shawnee County to aggressively pursue workforce development opportunities,” said Shelly Buhler, chair of the Shawnee County Commission. “A Washburn Tech scholarship program and manufacturing programs in our area high schools are helping us prepare our young people for positions with existing companies as well as new ones considering entering our marketplace.”

    In addition to these accomplishments, Smathers has played an instrumental role in food manufacturing training opportunities, veterans initiatives and programs that have enhanced existing business retention and new business development efforts.

    For the next three months, Smathers will focus on providing strategic advice to Pivarnik and the board, working on budgets, transferring knowledge to staff members and assisting with key initiatives such as an East Topeka learning center for which he has been advocating.

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  4. Call for Nominations for the Annual Women of Influence Awards

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    MEDIA RELEASE 

    For Immediate Release                               

    Monday, May 23, 2016                    

    Contacts:
    GO Topeka
    Glenda Washington, vice president entrepreneurial and minority business development, 785.234.2644

    Call for Nominations for the Annual Women of Influence Awards

    TOPEKA, Kan., May 23, 2016: The Women’s Initiative Committee will be hosting the Third Annual Women of Influence Awards on Wednesday, August 24th, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Capitol Plaza Hotel, Emerald Ballroom, 1717 SW Topeka Blvd., Topeka, KS.

    The committee is currently accepting award nominations. The nominees are women that have demonstrated excellence in serving and representing the community on a local, state or national level. These dynamic women will be celebrated in the following six categories. They are: Woman of Achievement, Outstanding Entrepreneur, Mentorship, Community Service, Education and Rising Star. The criteria for each category are provided in the nomination form attached or on the GO Topeka website at www.gotopeka.com/woi. GO Topeka will contact the nominees to ask them to provide further information addressing the specific selection criteria.

    Complete the nomination form and e-mail to: manderson@GoTopeka.com or fax to 785.234.8656. The deadline for nominations is 4:00 p.m., Friday, June 17, 2016.

    Please mark your calendar and plan to join us on August 24th as we celebrate these Women Making a Difference in Topeka and Shawnee County. RSVP here, call 785.231.6000 or email manderson@GoTopeka.com to confirm your reservation.

    About GO Topeka
    GO Topeka is a private not-for-profit organization dedicated to enhancing economic development in Topeka and Shawnee County by attracting new businesses, facilitating expansions and enhancing the business acumen of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Since 2002, GO Topeka has generated 11,000 new and retained jobs and $1.3 billion in capital investments. For additional information, visit www.gotopeka.com

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  5. Futamura USA to Invest $30 Million in Shawnee County

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    MEDIA RELEASE

    For Immediate Release                             

    Wednesday May 18, 2016                      

    Contacts: 

    GO Topeka

    Scott Smathers, 785.234.2644

     

    Press conference immediately following JEDO meeting

    Futamura USA to Invest $30 Million in Shawnee County

    TOPEKA, Kan., May 18, 2016: Futamura USA, who has acquired the cellophane business from Innovia Films, plans to increase the production in the Tecumseh facility by over 60 percent by moving production from Japan to Kansas. The production increase will require Futamura USA to invest up to $30 million into the Topeka/Shawnee County community for infrastructure improvements, equipment and new manufacturing lines. In addition, up to 28 new jobs will be created at its current facility, which combined provides an estimated economic impact of over more than $21 million to the community.

    “JEDO is very encouraged to have Futamura USA invest $30 million into the facility and equipment at the former Innovia Films Inc. plant,” said Commissioner Shelly Buhler, JEDO chair. “This investment, along with the 28 new jobs, will solidify the future of this facility in our community.”

    “We would like to express our gratitude for your support. Our company’s policy is contributing to those nations and communities through the manufacture and use of our products,” said Gen Sato, president Futamura USA. “We stand on a principle that our company exists to enhance the daily lives of our employees, rather than one that exists and belongs to its shareholders.”

    “By making this significant capital investment in our community, the company is not only reinforcing its commitment to its employees by renovating its facility, but also affirming Topeka is an optimal location for operating a global business from the central United States,” said Matt Pivarnik, CEO and president of GO Topeka and the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce.

    “We have had a long-standing partnership with representatives of the Tecumseh plant and we are thrilled with their decision to expand their operations in our market,” said Scott Griffith, chairman of GO Topeka Board of Directors. “As the only North American provider of cellophane, the local plant is an integral part of Futamura USA’s overall operations and a critically important part of our economy. We look forward to our continued working relationship and future expansions at the facility.”

    JEDO approved an incentive grant for up to $206,000, not to exceed $28,000 per year, at its May 18, 2016, meeting. Innovia Films currently employs more than 170 employees. The grant will be used to assist with facility improvements and in hiring and training new employees.

    “Topeka has many attributes that make it a desirable place in which to conduct business and we appreciate Futamura USA for making the decision to modernize its plant here,” said Mayor Larry Wolgast. “We understand that businesses have many options available to them when considering whether to expand or relocate, and it’s gratifying to see so many recent announcements where strong companies that invest in our quality of life in northeast Kansas have chosen to remain here.”

    “The Tecumseh cellophane plant has been a part of the Topeka community for more than 55 years,” said Michael Basore, plant manager. “I am very grateful for the support that JEDO, GO Topeka and the State of Kansas have given our facility. This support has been instrumental in giving us the opportunity to be part of the community for another 50 years!”

    About GO Topeka
    GO Topeka is a private not-for-profit organization dedicated to enhancing economic development in Topeka and Shawnee County by attracting new businesses, facilitating expansions and enhancing the business acumen of small business owners and entrepreneurs. GO Topeka is contracted by JEDO to administer the half-cent sales tax.

    About Futamura
    Futamura Chemical Co., Ltd., located in Japan and was established in 1950 to manufacture activated carbon. They have expanded the range of businesses into cellulose, plastic films, phenol laminated sheets and saccharification.

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  6. Se2 to Bring 200 High-Paying Jobs to Topeka Community

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    MEDIA RELEASE  gt-logo

    For Immediate Release                               

    Wednesday, May 11, 2016                                  

    Contacts: 

    GO Topeka
    Scott Smathers, vice president economic development, 785.234.2644

    Se2 to Bring 200 High-Paying Jobs to Topeka Community

    TOPEKA, Kan., May 11, 2016: Se2, a financial services company, will bring 200 new jobs to the Topeka community with an estimated economic impact of more than $100 million.

    “Retaining existing jobs and attracting new jobs is a priority of JEDO and GO Topeka,” said Commissioner Shelly Buhler. “We are pleased to provide the necessary incentives to ensure se2 continues their growth in our community.”

    “We are excited that se2 will use this investment in its future to attract and retain new employees,” said Scott Griffith, chairman of the GO Topeka board of directors. “As the company continues to grow its workforce, our community’s reputation as a regional hub for financial services and as an excellent place to live, work and play will grow, too.”

    JEDO approved the incentive grant for up to $1,000,000, not to exceed $200,000 per year, at its May 11, 2016, meeting. Se2 currently employs more than 600 employees. The grant will be used to provide training and development for existing employees and up to 200 new employees.

    “At se2, skilled talent is at the heart of our business and the foundation block of influencing our client’s experience.  The Topeka community has been an invaluable partner to our growth and our success and we appreciate the support of JEDO and GO Topeka.  We continue to be committed to the community through our investments in creating additional jobs and in training, developing and retaining local talent.” said Gautam Thakkar, Chief Executive Officer, se2.

    “The City of Topeka is excited se2 will grow its workforce in Topeka,” said Mayor Larry Wolgast. “The news is another win for our City as we continue to expand our economy and grow the financial services industry.  But even more importantly, when existing companies choose to invest in Topeka, we grow as a community. Investments like this help us develop a workforce and environment that fosters growth, not just for companies, but for the men and women living here as well.”

    About GO Topeka
    GO Topeka is a private not-for-profit organization dedicated to enhancing economic development in Topeka and Shawnee County by attracting new businesses, facilitating expansions and enhancing the business acumen of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Since 2002, GO Topeka has generated 11,000 new and retained jobs and $1.3 billion in capital investments. For additional information, visit www.gotopeka.com

    About se2
    As the leading third party administrator in the life and annuity insurance industry, se² uniquely combines its life insurance heritage, expertize in optimizing core insurance operations, seamless and efficient data conversion methodologies, leading edge administration technology platforms and advanced analytics to solve critical business challenges, which include – rapid launching of new products, streamlining of new business administration, profitability of in-force book operations and improved agent and customer services.  For additional information, please visit www.se2.com

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  7. Small Businesses Honored with Annual Awards

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    For information contact:  Glenda Washington or Kim Gronniger, 785.234.2644

    Small Businesses Honored with Annual Awards

    TOPEKA, Kansas, May 10, 2016 – Three local businesses and one nonprofit organization were recognized as winners in their respective categories at the 2016 Small Business Awards luncheon held today at the Capitol Plaza Hotel, Maner Conference Center. The Small Business Awards event is presented annually by GO Topeka’s Entrepreneurial and Minority Business Development and by the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce.

    The 2016 winners are:

     Emerging Entrepreneur of Distinction: MotoVike Films

     Nonprofit Award of Distinction: CASA of Shawnee County

    Minority and Women Business of Distinction:  Reliant Apparel, LLC

    Capital City Business of Distinction: Clayton Financial Services, Inc.

    Sponsors for the Small Business Awards luncheon include:  Gold Sponsors – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas and Envista Credit Union; Media Sponsors- WIBW-TV and KTWU; Silver Sponsor: Washburn Tech; and Bronze Sponsors: Capitol Federal, Dynamic Computer Solutions, INTRUST Bank, Parrish Hotel Corporation, PTMW, Inc., and Stormont Vail Health.

     Brent Boles, Chamber chair, said, “We are proud of all of the small business nominees and appreciate the strong contributions they have made to enhance our community’s quality of life through the products and services they provide. We hope their ingenuity, perseverance and success will inspire others to follow suit.”

    Scott Griffith, GO Topeka chair, said, “GO Topeka offers numerous programs and services to help new and established small businesses realize their potential. We are pleased to celebrate these Topeka companies today as their efforts reflect the strong work ethic and resourcefulness for which our part of the Midwest is known for.”

    About the Award Winners

    Emerging Entrepreneur of Distinction: MotoVike Films

    MotoVike Films was founded out of demand for Josiah Engstrom’s cinematography work. The firm has four employees and specializes in creating an emotional appeal that drives action.  The creative business has discovered ways to deliver service to more budget-conscious clients by introducing MotoTrike Films, a streamlined operation that allows businesses access to high-quality cinematography at a lesser cost.

    The company recently completed innovative films for the State Library of Kansas, which focused on the impact libraries have on their communities through the story of a student, and for the 190th Air Refueling Wing, which used visuals created with today’s tools and audio from the past.

    Nonprofit Award of Distinction:  CASA of Shawnee County

    CASA of Shawnee County, Inc., was incorporated in November 1986. It employs nine paid staff, 80 certified volunteers who advocate for abused and neglected children and 20 volunteers who serve on multiple committees for fundraising events. Since its inception, CASA volunteers have advocated for more than 3,300 abused and neglected children in Shawnee County.

    The agency is the only one in the community that provides volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the court system. By participating in multidisciplinary team meetings with partner agencies involving local court, school and social service professionals, the organization complements other community efforts by eliminating duplication of existing services.

    Minority and Women Business of Distinction:  Reliant Apparel, LLC

    Reliant Apparel, LLC, is a custom apparel, screen-printing and embroidery business located in downtown Topeka. The business began as a home-based business with the primary focus to print items for touring musicians. After 18 months, the business had grown enough to move to 728 S Kansas Ave. in 2011. The business employs 10 people.

    Reliant prides itself on its creativity, providing timely support for the Mars pop-up shop and supplying its clients with high-quality but lower-cost products made with an innovative process called index separation print.

    Capital City Business of Distinction:  Clayton Financial Services, Inc.

    Clayton Financial Services, Inc., has been in business and under the same management for more than 30 years. CFSI is the oldest and largest independent investment management and financial advisory firm in northeast Kansas.  It attributes its growth to being responsive to clients’ needs.

    CFSI is compensated by fees paid by clients and doesn’t receive commissions based upon its advice or recommended investments. The firm has a robust financial planning division with analysis provided by certified financial planners. In 1984, when the firm was incorporated, there were two full-time employees in addition to the owners, Debra and Randy Clayton. Today there are 12 full-time employees in addition to the owners and $400 million in assets under management.

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  8. Small Business Week Celebration

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    MEDIA RELEASE

    For Immediate Release
    Tuesday, April 19, 2016                             

    Contacts:
    GO Topeka
    Glenda Washington, vice president entrepreneurial & minority business development, 785.234.2644

    Small Business Week Celebration

    TOPEKA, Kan., April 19, 2016: GO Topeka, Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce, Washburn Small Business Development Center, 712 Innovations and Downtown Topeka, Inc. are turning Small Business Week into a month-long celebration by hosting classes, events and training sessions throughout May. The events and training will assist entrepreneurs in taking their business to the next level.

    We will kick off the month with the “Securing Your Business Summit” on May 3, 2016. Learn about protecting your business from cyber, physical, data and mobile theft. Secure your business for a safe and productive environment. Register for the summit at www.topekachamber.org.

    On Tuesday, May 10, 2016, GO Topeka and the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce will celebrate entrepreneurs at the Small Business Awards at the Capitol Plaza Hotel. Register for that event at www.gotopeka.com/events.

    The full schedule of events will be available on www.gotopeka.com/small-business-week, as well as on the Topeka Entrepreneurs Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/TopekaEntrepreneurs) page.

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  9. Securing Your Business Summit

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    MEDIA RELEASE

    For Immediate Release
    Tuesday, April 12, 2016                             

    Contacts:
    GO Topeka
    Glenda Washington, 785.234.2644

    Topeka Chamber
    Ashley Charest, 785.234.2644

    TOPEKA, Kan., April 12, 2016: GO Topeka, in partnership with the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce and Dynamic Computer Solutions, is hosting a Securing Your Business Summit. The summit will be led by experts in cyber crime, firewalls, physical security and measures to defend your business against cyber attacks. The following speakers will be leading the sessions and discussion:

    • A representative from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation
    • Jill Tillery, channel account manager, WatchGuard Technologies
    • Chuck Clanahan, protective security advisor, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
    • Steve Huff, vice president of IT security and risk, Capitol Federal

    The summit is taking place on Tuesday, May 3, 2016, at the Kansas Bureau of Investigation Forensic Science Center on the Washburn University campus. There are two offerings, the morning session from 7:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and an afternoon session from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. The two sessions are the same, after each session there will be an optional tour available for those who want to see the KBI Forensic Science Center.

    Register for the Securing Your Business Summit at www.topekachamber.org.

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  10. Finalists for Small Business Awards Announced

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    MEDIA RELEASE

    For Immediate Release
    Wednesday, April 13, 2016                                 

    Contacts:
    GO Topeka
    Glenda Washington, vice president entrepreneurial & minority business development, 785.234.2644

    Topeka Chamber
    Kim Gronniger, vice president marketing 785.234.2644

    TOPEKA, Kan., April 13, 2016: Finalists in the four categories have been selected for the 2016 Small Business Awards sponsored by GO Topeka and the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce.

    The Small Business Awards Luncheon will be Tuesday, May 10, 2016 from noon – 1:30pm at the Capitol Plaza Hotel, Maner Conference Center. Tickets are $30 and available online at www.gotopeka.com/events or you can purchase them by calling 785.231.6000.

    This is the 36th year of recognizing small businesses in Shawnee County. The categories and finalists include:

    Emerging Entrepreneur of Distinction – Successful business owner who has been in business one to two years.

    • Ash Boutique
    • Casa del Sabor
    • Motovike Films

    Non-Profit Award of Distinction – Must be legally formed as one of the following: 501(c)3, 501(c)4, 501(c)5, 501(c)6.

    • CASA of Shawnee County
    • Harvesters
    • SLI (formerly Sheltered Living, Inc.)

    Minority and Women Owned Business of Distinction – A minority-owned business is a business that is at least 51 percent owned and operated by one of the following: Native American, Hispanic/Latino, African-American, Asian/Pacific Islander or Subcontinent Asian. A woman-owned business is a business that is at least 51 percent owned and operated by a female.

    • Express Employment Professionals
    • Juli’s Coffee & Bistro
    • Reliant Apparel, LLC

    Capital City Business of Distinction – An individual who owns 51 percent of a small business and is responsible for the principal operations of the small business.

    • Clayton Financial Services, Inc.
    • HTK Architects
    • Big O Tires

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