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Strengthening the Economy by Strengthening Microbusiness: A North Texas Forum

January 31, 2013 Dallas Fed

Sponsored by Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) and Citi
Hosted by Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas


8:30 a.m. Welcome Elizabeth Sobel Blum, Senior Community Development Research Associate, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

Annie Lord
Community Development Officer—Dallas–Fort Worth, Citi


Connie Evans
President and CEO, Association for Enterprise Opportunity

8:45 a.m.

Economic Opportunity in Texas

Microbusiness in Texas
Alfreda B. Norman
Vice President and Community Development Officer, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas


Dallas' Small Business Economy
Daniel Oney
Business Network Manager, City of Dallas

9:00 a.m.

Making the Economic Case for Microbusiness Investment
Connie Evans

9:30 a.m.

Supporting the Creation and Growth of Microbusinesses

Moderator: Connie Evans
President and CEO, Association for Enterprise Opportunity


Julie Abrams
National expert on microfinance and women’s issues


Microbusiness Center: Business and Kitchen Incubator Models
Patricia Harris
Executive Director and CEO, The Edge Connection


Supporting the Creation and Growth of Microbusinesses
Nell Merlino
Founder and President, Count Me In for Women's Economic Independence

10:45 a.m.

Group Discussion: Opportunities and challenges to further support and promote microbusiness in North Texas

Moderator: Steve LaFredo
Director, North Texas Business Banking, Citi


Daniel Oney


Rick Ortiz
President and CEO, Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce


Prison Entrepreneurship Program
Jeremy Gregg
Chief Development Officer, Prison Entrepreneurship Program

11:45 a.m.


Elizabeth Sobel Blum

About the Speakers

Julie Abrams is a national leader in microfinance and women’s issues. She is a recognized expert in nonprofit management and building high-performance, multicultural teams that are successful at board selection, brand development and fundraising.

Abrams was CEO of the Women’s Initiative for Self Employment for 11 years, deputy director of the Merit School of Music for seven and a board member of organizations focused on women, Latinos and economic development for over 20 years.

Connie Evans is president and CEO of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity, the national nonprofit organization and business trade association representing the U.S. microbusiness development industry. In 1986, she became the founding president of the award-winning Women’s Self-Employment Project, the first and largest urban microenterprise development organization in the U.S. and the first adaptation of the Grameen Bank model to a U.S. urban setting. Evans also pioneered one of the nation’s first matched-savings programs, known as an individual development account.

Jeremy Gregg, chief development officer for the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, initially joined the organization in 2007 as a volunteer. He served on the Dallas advisory board from 2008 until he was appointed to his current post in January 2012.

Gregg previously served as executive director for The PLAN Fund, a microfinance institution, and was founding executive director for Executives in Action, a nonprofit that places out-of-work executives on pro bono consulting projects at nonprofit organizations. He also held positions at the Center for Nonprofit Management in Dallas, CitySquare (formerly Central Dallas Ministries) and Camp Fire USA Lone Star Council.

Gregg received his executive MBA from the University of Texas at Dallas and holds degrees in both creative advertising and English from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Patricia Harris is executive director and CEO of The Edge Connection, an independent, nonprofit 501 (c) (3) organization at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University. The Edge Connection’s mission is to create opportunities for long-term economic self-sufficiency and successful entrepreneurship through entrepreneurial training for low- to moderate-in- come individuals, women, minorities and persons with disabilities in metro Atlanta and beyond.

Steve LaFredo, North Texas business banking director at Citi, is a 27-year veteran of the company. He currently leads the business banking team for Dallas–Fort Worth and a portion of West Texas. His background includes operations, technology, business strategy and retail. The majority of his career has been spent in emerging markets. LaFredo manages a team of business bankers in the North Texas market, where he has led innovative partnerships that include Citi’s recent microlending portfolio acquisition with Accion Texas.

LaFredo is president of the Dallas Entrepreneur Network, vice chairman of the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce board, a board member of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau and board vice chairman of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity. He is involved with poverty and economic development issues, especially around business creation and asset building. He was recognized as Volunteer of the Year for 2010 for his work with the United Way.

Nell Merlino is founder and president of Count Me In for Women’s Economic Indepen- dence, the leading national nonprofit provider of resources to help women expand their microbusinesses into million-dollar enterprises. She is also founder and president of Strategy Communication Action Ltd. in New York City, a firm specializing in the creation of public education campaigns.

Merlino is a member of the U.S. Department of State’s Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy and was appointed a Pathways to Prosperity envoy by the State Department to promote women’s business growth throughout North and South America.

Alfreda B. Norman is vice president and community development officer at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. She oversees a team that promotes community and economic development and fair and impartial access to credit through research and training, publications and conferences, workshops and policy forums.

Norman came to the Fed in 2004 from Bank of America, which hired her in 1992 as its first neighborhood development officer, in charge of implementing a strategic plan for extending credit to low- and moderate-income communities in Texas. She went on to assume statewide Community Reinvestment Act responsibilities with Bank of America’s mortgage lending group. Previously, she worked as supervisor in the city of Dallas’ Office of Cultural Affairs and held management positions at The Container Store headquarters in Coppell, Texas.

Norman earned a bachelor’s degree from Southern Methodist University and is a graduate of the University of Virginia’s Graduate School of Retail Banking.

Daniel Oney is business network manager for the city of Dallas, a position created to coordinate the SourceLinkDallas project. SourceLinkDallas is a new one-stop online shop for Dallas entrepreneurs; offline, it’s a network of nonprofits and government organizations with a mission to support entrepreneurs and small businesses. Oney markets the SourceLinkDallas referral service and plays a liaison, networking and advocacy role, helping partners deliver services to entrepreneurs.

Oney previously served as the city of Dallas’ first economic research manager. He also was senior economist for the Virginia General Assembly and staffed the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Economic Development and Natural Resources. His professional focus has been on building statistical and financial models to help policymakers understand the implications of their decisions.

Oney has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Austin College and master’s and PhD degrees in public policy and political economy from the University of Texas atDallas.

Rick Ortiz was named president and CEO of the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GDHCC) in 2012. During his first year, the GDHCC, through its partnership with Citi and Interise, launched an initiative designed to take established small businesses to the next level through participation in the Executive Entrepreneur Program. Additionally, the GDHCC developed a three-year strategic plan that includes adding more technical assistance and educational programs for small businesses.

Ortiz previously worked as an attorney, specializing in business and tort litigation. He is a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas, the Dallas Bar Association and the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association. He has served as a board member of the Dallas Concilio of Hispanic Organizations and the North Texas Navidad en el Barrio Foundation and as a member of the board and the executive committee of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Ortiz worked as a Bristol Meyers Squibb pharmaceutical representative prior to attending St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, where he received his JD in 2003. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Texas at El Paso.