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2021 MARKETPLACE Community Economic Development Awards recognize notable business and community leaders

December 10, 2021
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WEDC provides recognition to top supporters of minority-, woman- and veteran-owned businesses

MILWAUKEE WI. DEC. 10, 2021 – At MARKETPLACE: The 40th Governor’s Conference on Diverse Business Development, individuals were recognized for their decades-long leadership and distinguished service in business and community development to support minority-, woman- and veteran-owned businesses in Wisconsin.

The following seven individuals were recognized by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC):

Jean Marie Thiel is the president and CEO of Belonger Corporation, Inc., a Native owned business, that she founded in March 2000. The firm operates a specialty trades mechanical contracting company. Thiel found time to give back to the community by sharing her wide range of experience in the supplier diversity arena. She has been an active participant of Marketplace Conference for over two decades and graciously volunteered to serve as speaker and panelist covering many topics. She currently serves as Board President of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin and Board Director of the Wisconsin Procurement Institute.

Ossie Kendrix Jr. is the president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin. Under his leadership, the chamber reached its $1 million fundraising goal to build and open the Legacy Co-Working and Innovation Space, which serves as its new headquarters at 1920 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Milwaukee’s Bronzeville Neighborhood. He is the recipient of many awards for his contributions to the African American Business community in Wisconsin.

Ugo Nwagbaraocha, president-owner of Diamond Discs International, is a minority business advocate working to elevate Wisconsin’s diverse business community. He assumed leadership of the National Association of Minority Contractors (NAMC) Wisconsin chapter at a critical moment. Strategic collaborations with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the North Central Minority Supplier Development Council, Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, Department of Administration, counties and cities have created opportunities for minority businesses. Nwagbaraocha also serves as the chair of the Business Council, which has led the Annual Healthcare Diversity Sourcing Summit. He is a founding member of the Green Bay Packers Mentor Protégé Milwaukee expansion program and is on the steering council and executive committee of Scale Up Milwaukee.

Randy Crump is the CEO of Prism Technical Management and Marketing Services. Prism is a diversity, inclusion and equity assurance consulting firm based in Milwaukee that manages construction site inclusion throughout Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The company is best known for its success in exceeding diversity goals on professional sports stadiums and arenas. Most recently, Prism was the sole outreach, diversity and inclusion construction consultant on the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons project, served as the exclusive workforce consultant on all the Fiserv Forum and related Milwaukee Bucks projects, and served as the lone Federal Transit Authority compliance monitor for the city on the Hop, Milwaukee’s new streetcar.

Michael Phillips works for PNC Bank as a small business banking sales and strategy advisor. Phillips’ passion for minority business development, particularly within the Hmong community, led him to make investments in Hmong and minority business owners creating jobs and wealth for their families and communities. He served the Hmong Chamber first as secretary and treasurer for one year and lead the Chamber as Board Chair from 2004 – 2016. He was member of the planning committee for MARKETPLACE- Governor’s Conference on Minority Business Development from 2005 to 2007.

Fern Orie is the Chief Programs Officer and Executive Vice President of Advocacy & Strategic Partnerships for Oweesta Corporation. She recently served as the founding CEO of the Wisconsin Native Loan Fund, a statewide housing Native Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). Orie has been the Chair of the Wisconsin Indian Business Alliance since its inception and the Vice Chair of the national Native CDFI Network. She serves on the Board of Directors and Loan Committee of Bay Bank, a tribally owned bank and serves on the Forward Community Investments New Markets Tax Credit Advisory Board. She was appointed by the Governor to WEDC’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Committee, and the Governor’s Council on Financial Literacy and Capability. She also serves on the Wisconsin Economic Development Association Board of Directors. Orie serves on the Program Advisory Committee for the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College and the Community Advisory Committee for Associated Bank. She has worked in the Native housing and community development industry for 20 years and holds a B.A. in Business Administration and is a certified Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP) through the National Development Council. She is an enrolled member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin.

Brian A. Mitchell, P.E. started his career in construction as an estimator with Edward Kraemer and Sons, writing computer code for bidding support on DOT projects. Then he spent the next 30 plus years owning two union steel erection firms in Wisconsin. He served on the Ironworker’s apprenticeship, pension and health and welfare committees, the Associated General Contractors board, and with the Big Step organization. He is the former president of the Wisconsin chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors (NAMC) and sat on the national NAMC board. In his current role, he is the Supplier Diversity Manager for the Michels Corporation, supporting Michels’ efforts to utilize and develop opportunities for diverse, minority-owned businesses throughout North America.

These awards were a part of the larger MARKETPLACE conference held Dec. 7-9 at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee. This event provides an opportunity to celebrate Wisconsin’s minority-, woman-, veteran- and LGBTQ-owned businesses, as well as connecting these businesses with new opportunities through networking, buyer meetings and workshops. For more information, visit

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