By Kara Nelson
The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center’s Small and Emerging Business (SEB) Program has a new Program Manager and recently launched a new mentor-protégé pilot program. As a major economic driver for the region, the Convention Center works year-round to create opportunities to help Louisiana’s small and emerging businesses (SEB) and disadvantaged business enterprises (DBE) succeed.
The Convention Center recently appointed LaToya Martin as Manager of the SEB program. In her new role, Martin manages SEB and DBE initiatives designed to help promote diverse and small businesses’ access to Convention Center opportunities.
“LaToya’s leadership is proving vital to the Convention Center’s ongoing mission to give SEBs and DBEs more and easier access to opportunities, a goal that reflects the policy direction of our governing body, the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority,” said Convention Center President Michael J. Sawaya. “Since the SEB program launched in 2019, 1,300 certified vendors have registered, and more than $40 million has been awarded to area SEBs and DBEs. We are working to not just continue but accelerate that progress.”
Martin came to the Convention Center from the City of New Orleans, Office of Supplier Diversity. She served as compliance officer for two years and was later promoted to senior compliance officer. In that role, she trained and supervised a staff of four compliance officers and managed a portfolio of $700 million dollars of public and private sector funds.
After receiving a B.A. in Sociology from the University of New Orleans, Martin earned her Contract Compliance Administrator Certification from American Contract Compliance Association and Morgan State University for Continuing and Professional Studies.
Martin stepped into her new role after the SEB program’s former Director Rocsean Spencer was promoted to become the NOENMCC’s Chief Diversity Officer, the nation’s first person to hold this position at a Convention Center.
In other news, the Convention Center’s SEB/DBE program recently launched a new mentor-protégé pilot program, MoMentor. Since its May 17th kickoff, the program has begun matching mid- to large-sized “mentor” firms with emerging and/or disadvantaged “protégé” businesses. The pairs will work together to develop and improve participation in the Convention Center’s SEB/DBE contracts and subcontracts, establish long-term business relationships, and strengthen subcontracting opportunities through Convention Center incentives.
“It is hard to overstate the outsize impact the right mentor can make, especially for a small business,” Sawaya said. “Like our SEBConnected App, our plan is that the MoMentor program will help emerging and disadvantaged business owners learn from the larger companies, getting granular insight on planning and best practices for doing business with the Convention Center as well as other public institutions. We consider it a privilege to play a part in facilitating lasting connections that will help advance the success stories of local small businesses.”
To date, the NOENMCC has identified four companies for the MoMentor pilot: Airware Transportation & Logistics; Nano, LLC; Balthazar Electriks and B Interior Design Studio. The program began with an orientation class on May 17th and will continue with one-on-one sessions and cohort workshops. There are no fees to participate in the mentor-protégé program.
Kara Nelson is with The Ehrhardt Group.