This discussion focuses on equitable practices and increasing access to government contracting opportunities.
May 24, 2023
Tara Dowdell Group is joining forces with Tai Cooper, Chief Community Development Officer at New Jersey Economic Development Authority, Otis Rolley, President at Wells Fargo Foundation, and Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, the representative of the 35th Legislative District in New Jersey for an actionable conversation on the importance and need for implementing equitable practices and increasing access to government contracting opportunities. This discussion will explore practical strategies for streamlining procurement processes, reducing costs, and increasing outreach to small businesses, particularly Black and Brown businesses.
Chief Community Development Officer
New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA)
As Chief Community Development Officer at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), Tai is responsible for leading the NJEDA’s communications and enhanced engagement strategy. This includes strengthening ties with policy-makers at the federal, state, and local level as they look to advance strategies, research and data that will help drive equitable and inclusive economic development policies and programs. She has helped to pioneer government-funded venture capital, seed funding, lending, and grant programs for small businesses and entrepreneurs of color. Tai joined the NJEDA in February 2019. Immediately prior to that, she was the Deputy Chief Policy Advisor to Governor Murphy and led New Jersey’s Federal Opportunity Zone initiative. She previously served as Chief Policy Advisor to Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, where she provided policy analysis and project management across municipal agencies, with a focus on public safety, community engagement, philanthropy, and government innovation. Tai also had key roles in both Mayor Baraka’s campaign and transition teams.
Assemblywoman Shavonda E. Sumter
New Jersey General Assembly
35th Legislative District
Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter entered the New Jersey General Assembly in 2012. She has served in the executive leadership as Deputy Speaker and Majority Conference Leader. Assemblywoman Sumter currently represents the 35th Legislative District that includes parts of Bergen and Passaic County. In this current session, Assemblywoman Sumter serves as chair of assembly committee, Community Development and Affairs, where she looks forward to tackling important issues such as community blight, the wealth gap and upscaling the needs of New Jersey’s small businesses. She is also a member of the Labor and Commerce and Economic Development committees. In addition, Asw. Sumter is the first woman to serve as the chair of the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus. Assemblywoman Sumter recognizes that her legislation transcends her district and affects the 9 million people in the state of New Jersey. She is a staunch advocate for job growth, women's health, voting rights, civil rights, and criminal justice reform. Assemblywoman Sumter has championed legislation addressing Black Maternal & Infant mortality in the state and recently, the Governor signed her voting rights legislation into law that will restore voting rights for more than 80,000 individuals who are currently on probation or parole effective March 2020.
President of the Wells Fargo Foundation, Head of Philanthropy and Community Impact
Wells Fargo & Company
Otis Rolley is the head of Philanthropy and Community Impact at Wells Fargo & Company and president of the Wells Fargo Foundation, one of the largest corporate foundations in the United States. At Wells Fargo, Otis guides the strategic vision behind the company’s social impact strategies with an emphasis on housing affordability, small business growth, financial health and a low-carbon future. Prior to joining the company, Otis was the Senior Vice President, U.S. Equity and Economic Opportunity Initiative at The Rockefeller Foundation. Otis directed all U.S. work focused on enhancing the ability of every working person to meet the basic financial needs of their family and have a path to a better future. Centering racial and gender equity, Otis provided stewardship for U.S. grant making and investing aligned to filling key US economic opportunity gaps in tax and budget policy design and implementation; access to capital and asset ownership; and worker coalition-building and advocacy. Prior to this role, he served as North American Managing Director for The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities.
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