Ben Gutierrez was the sixth child of 13 children born into a migrant family during the Great Depression. Ben learned quickly that he had to contribute to the well being of his family and began his first job at the age of 5 as a shoeshine boy. Throughout his childhood and teen years he worked multiple jobs simultaneously while attending school in order to contribute to the well being of his family.
Prior to entering the business world, he served in World War II in the U.S. Army Air Corps, 33rd Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group, Fifth Air Force, and received an honorable discharge, becoming a service-disabled veteran as a result of his service time.
He worked his way up from the Ford Motor Co. production lines to multiple engineering/purchasing management positions over 29 years while pursuing an engineering degree at the University of Michigan. During this time he began supporting and sponsoring minority small businesses by helping to source business to them.
He later began a very successful manufactures' representative organization as the CEO of Global Trading Group, where he represented many minority small businesses and helped them to grow. He also created multiple small businesses over the next 30 years and consistently hired minorities to mentor them.
At the same time Mr. Gutierrez worked closely with the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Foreign Relations under the Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations assisting Mexican and Hispanic American companies in their business endeavors.
Mr. Gutierrez was founder and president of the Michigan Tri-County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which later became the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He was also a founding member of the U. S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Six years ago, his company, Gutierrez-McMullen Industries, became the fi rst Hispanic company to sponsor a major meal event at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce National Conference by contributing $150,000 and setting an example for all other Hispanic companies in the future.
Ben is now 90 years young and is still helping to mentor minority businesses. He currently serves as senior advisor to David Segura, CEO of VisionIT, one of the largest and fastest growing Hispanic businesses in the nation. He has helped VisionIT establish multiple business offices in Mexico City, and also establish a world-class technical office in Puebla, Mexico.
Known as "Tio Ben" (Uncle Ben) by the many friends and family he has mentored, Mr. Gutierrez will tell you he looks forward to continuing to contribute during the next 10 years by mentoring minority businesses.
Ben currently lives in Au Gres, Mich., with his wife Frances.
Founder, Chairman and Chief
Bill Imada’s dedication to the promotion and support of minority-owned and operated businesses resounds throughout his career.
In 1990, he founded IW Group, a minority owned and operated full service communications firm that focuses especially on growing Asian American and other multicultural markets in the United States. As a strong promoter of business education, Imada works closely with the Asian American community to share skills and expertise to promote better business practices for business owners. His dedication to the education of present and future minority business leaders has led him and the IW Group to help develop and sustain the first Asian Pacific Islander American national college scholarship fund. A renowned national speaker on multicultural issues, Imada presents to trade associations, universities, and companies — all in the interest of growing multicultural markets and building a better future for minority businesses across the nation.
Imada and the IW Group have worked tirelessly to promote fairness in the media, speaking out strongly against defaming depictions of minorities in advertising and addressing the lack of Asian Americans in prime time
Upon learning from business owners and entrepreneurs that a visible business voice was needed in Washington, D.C., Bill Imada co-founded Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ACE), and helped unite more than a dozen AAPI chambers of commerce and business organizations throughout the country. In less than two years, ACE has received recognition from President Barack Obama, U.S. SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet and Minority Business Development Agency Director Alejandra Castillo. Bill Imada was later appointed by President Obama to serve as a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Recently, IW Group received the Small Business of the Year award from the Southern California Minority Supplier Development Council and the Corporation of the Year award from by the Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a recognition traditionally given to large corporations.
Northwest indian Fisheries Commission
Founding Board Member
Billy Frank Jr. spent his life fighting to preserve the sovereignty of Native American Tribes and defending the right of Native Americans to live according to their heritage and ancestry. A member of the Nisqually Tribe, Frank was 14 when Washington State officers began confiscating fishing gear and arresting tribal members for fishing in the Nisqually River, among them a young Billy Frank. Thus began Frank’s journey towards ensuring justice and creating opportunities for Native Americans.
As a young man active in the fish wars of the 1960s and 1970s, through his chairmanship of the NW Indian Fisheries Commission from the early 1980s, until his death at age 83, Billy Frank opened opportunities for Native American families to fish and for tribes to manage fisheries. Over the course of his career, Frank was arrested more than 50 times, not for acts of belligerence or destruction, but for his staunch belief that preserving the truths and traditions of the past is important for the good of the future. He was instrumental in the 1974 “Boldt Decision” (U.S. v Washington) that said Indians would have a share “in common with” the salmon catches made by non-Indians. The new ruling opened the door to immense opportunities for Native American-owned and operated businesses.
Frank understood the centrality that salmon play in the culture, traditions, lives, and economies of Native peoples in the northwest. His work led directly to the growth of business opportunities for Native families and for tribes across the U.S. From family-owned fishing businesses to tribally owned hatcheries and fish processing plants, thousands of jobs for Native and non-Native people have been created.
On hearing of his passing, President Obama said, “Billy fought for treaty rights to fish the waters of the Pacific Northwest, a battle he finally won in 1974 after being arrested many times during tribal “fish-ins”. Today, thanks to his courage and determined effort, our resources are better protected, and more tribes are able to enjoy the
rights preserved for them more than a century ago.”
Clearly a 21st century business leader and community advocate, Carmen Muñoz is the 15th child in a family of 16 children born and raised in Detroit’s Hispanic community. Ms. Muñoz’s father, a Mexican immigrant, published La Chispa, the first Spanish language newspaper in Detroit. Early in life, Ms. Muñoz and her siblings helped their father print and distribute the newspaper and were involved in community affairs, introducing the children to the world of work and community leadership.
Ms. Muñoz’s first business was founded on 25 years experience in the precision machine manufacturing industry and the courage to venture out on her own. After buying out her partners, Ms. Muñoz’s company continued to excel by earning numerous prestigious supplier quality awards from Ford Motor Company and General Motors. Through her own business, her many board positions and her current responsibilities at Focus Hope Enterprise, she has opened doors for many minority business owners, particularly women.
Since 1996, she has taken her wealth of business and community leadership experiences and focused her energies on making a difference and opening up more opportunities for the disadvantaged and minority youth. When other women are ready for retirement, Ms. Muñoz’s passion and concern for minority equity has kept her working. Employed for a time with the Michigan Minority Business Development Council, she has helped countless other business owners and co-workers hone their entrepreneurial skills while building solid business practices. She is a lifelong-community advocate and mentor to emerging business leaders; she continues to help others to see the value of their work ethic, education, and training. She is still a proponent of the very values her father taught her as a child.
Ms. Muñoz received Crain’s Detroit Business One, named one of the top 10 businesswomen in Michigan; named Business Woman of the Year, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce - Region IV; awarded The Michigan Minority Business Development Council Minority Advocate of the Year; received the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation’s Dream Makers Award; and is a four-time winner of General Motors’ Supplier of the Year Award.
Charles Timothy Haffey (d. 2012) demonstrated steadfast commitment to social equality and equalizing the economic playing field throughout his life. Haffey spent the entirety of his professional career at the well-established international research and pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. His years of dedicated service led to the distinguished position of Vice President of Corporate Purchasing for the corporation. Haffeyâ€™s sense of dutiful obligations to others was apparent with the impact he made in Pfizer's private-sector supplier practice while in this position, advocating for diversity in the company's supply base.
In 1979, the leadership of the National Minority Business Council (NMBC) noticed Haffey's fortitude. The NMBC, still in its adolescence, had been chartered in 1972 to expand business and educational opportunities for minority entrepreneurs, and its council leaders were seeking a means to transform the corporation into a "full-time" entity. The NMBC approached Haffey for his guidance. Haffey promoted the value of the NMBC to the executives of Pfizer, securing the organization a donated office space within Pfizer to serve as the institution's first real home.
Following Haffey's retirement from Pfizer in 1984 he became an instrumental figure for the NMBC, enlisting his time as the NMBC's Corporate Executive Volunteer to relentlessly promote the growth of the organization and build corporate partnerships. Haffey "represents the type of courage and dedication, and the leadership and foresight for the causeâ€¦ way before his time," reflects NMBC President and CEO John F. Robinson.