Read the Fresno Bee article, “Progress starts with Black-run organizations that help Black-owned businesses.“
The daughter of two career educators, Tara Lynn Gray admits that community service is a part of her family heritage and why she is dedicated to self-empowerment and entrepreneurship programs. As such, Gray considers herself a change agent that leverages new platforms and technologies to accelerate growth for disadvantaged communities and underserved markets.
As Chief Executive Officer of the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce (FMBCC) and Chamber Foundation (FMBCF), Ms. Gray is engaging, educating, and empowering small businesses in California’s Central Valley. As the leader of a 19-year-old Community Based Organization, she is a visionary breaking new ground in non-traditional spaces. She has been instrumental in the design and development of one of the most groundbreaking shared mobility programs in the country, leveraged the green economy to advance equity, and manages a network of organizations working to advance electric vehicle use in the San Joaquin Valley.
A business owner for over 15 years, Ms. Gray seeks to transform barriers into opportunity for small businesses through direct linkages between community-based solutions and economic mobility.
Ms. Gray’s education includes a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management from St. Mary’s College, Moraga, CA; a Master of Arts in Christian Studies from Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, AZ; a Management Development for Entrepreneurs Certificate, UCLA Anderson School of Business; and various Information Technology certificates.
Keshia Thomas is Trustee of the Fresno Unified School District, Area 1, an area that is composed of some of the most severely distressed communities in Fresno. She is a lifelong Fresno native and she has been in education for the last 17 years and was elected to the Board of Trustees in 2018. She has a master’s degree in education along with her teacher credential and administrative credential. Ms. Thomas began her education career teaching algebra and geometry at a local charter school and has been employed as a teacher in Fresno Unified as a 7-8th grade math instructor. In addition, she has served in administration as a vice-principal.
Ms. Thomas spends time giving back to her community as assistant director of the homeless ministry through Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church Women’s Missionary Union where she prepares and serves meals. She also serves as Assistant Director of the Children’s Church at Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church where she is a lifelong member.
Lillian Macías Weiland was born and raised in Guasti, a small village, and then Ontario, both in Southern California. She lived and observed first-hand the burdens and benefits of living in low-income communities. She is proud of her industrious immigrant parents who were construction and farm labor workers and swap meet sellers. She learned from them the importance of education and preparing for a better future. Her family spoke Spanish at home and she remains fluent in written and spoken Spanish.
Ms. Weiland holds a law degree from San Joaquin College of Law and an undergraduate degree in business. During law school, Ms. Weiland managed a law firm and oversaw volunteers for various non-profit organizations all while having and raising a baby. She has applied her education and experience to generate new revenue for community development and non-profit organizations, including oversight and implementation of beautification projects at local schools. Ms. Weiland continues to volunteer with women’s service organizations and participated in a reading program at Rescue the Children, CVNMTC’s first project.
Ms. Weiland joined CVNMTC in 2011 and provides compliance, loan serving, and monitoring, and support for all CDE operations including analytical review.
Since 1988 she has made her home in Fresno, a city surrounded by beautiful farmland.
Esperanza Vielma is a dedicated advocate for the equitable economic development of the San Joaquin Valley. In 2014, Ms. Vielma founded Cafe Coop, the first nonprofit cooperative for startup companies, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and artists in San Joaquin County. She is an active voice for the environmental justice community in the San Joaquin Valley and currently serves as the Environmental Justice Director for Restore the Delta, an advocacy group that works in the areas of public education and outreach for the conservation of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta. In addition, Ms. Vielma, serves as chair of the Environmental Justice Advisory Group for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and as Board Vice President for the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water. In 2016, Ms. Vielma was nominated and selected to be part of the Delta Leadership Program’s inaugural Class of 2016 by the State of California’s Delta Protection Commission. Esperanza also serves as the representative for San Joaquin County on the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee and represents entrepreneurs on the board of the State-approved iHub San Joaquin. A graduate of the University of California, Ms. Vielma serves on the California Alumni Association Board of Directors and is Vice President of the UC Berkeley Chicano Latino Alumni Association and Scholarship Chair for the Cal Club of San Joaquin County.
On November 8, 2016, Tubbs was elected to serve as mayor of the City of Stockton. Upon taking his office in January 2017, Michael is Stockton’s youngest mayor and the city’s first African-American mayor. Michael Tubbs is also the youngest mayor in the nation representing a city with over 100,000 residents. Michael Tubbs has served as Stockton, California’s, District 6 City Councilmember since 2013. Elected at age 22, he became one of the youngest City Councilmembers in the nation. He overcame adversity to rise to this position, having been born to an incarcerated father and teenage mother in Stockton, once designated one of America’s most dangerous cities. As a youth, Michael excelled in school and obtained a full scholarship to Stanford University, where he graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree with honors. He is also a Fellow at the Stanford Institute of Design. As a Councilmember and Mayor, Michael has focused on poverty reduction, community engagement and organizing. Through collective impact strategies he is working to deepen his impact as mayor.
Mr. Valle serves as Kings County Supervisor for District 2, which includes the towns of Kettleman City, Avenal and Corcoran. The overall poverty rate in his district is over 30%. Mr. Valle is a long-time resident of Kings County, born in Corcoran and graduating from Corcoran High School in 1988. In 1990, Mr. Valle enrolled in the United States Marine Corps, serving proudly for 6 years. After being honorably discharged, he returned to Corcoran and became an audit inspector at Santa Rosa Rancheria. Returning to school, he completed his degree in Human Resource Management and in 2003 was hired and served as a Field Representative for Assemblywoman Nicole Parra. His passion for public service led him to pursue a seat on the Kings County Board of Supervisors. In November 2008, the citizens of his county honored him by electing him as Supervisor for District 2. In 2012, due to his hard work and effectiveness in representing his constituents, he was overwhelmingly re-elected to the Board of Supervisors.
Bobby Kahn serves as the Executive Director of the Madera County Economic Development Commission (MCEDC), a joint powers agency comprised of the County of Madera, the City of Madera and the City of Chowchilla that serves to improve the economic conditions and lives of the people within Madera County. The efforts of MCEDC are greatly needed. The unemployment rate in Madera County is consistently close to twice that of national average. The poverty rate for individuals is 21%. Over 30% of children within the County live below the poverty line. In his capacity as Executive Director, the MCEDC develops the comprehensive economic development and jobs growth plan and strategies for the County of Madera and its Cities. Mr. Kahn currently serves as Secretary/Treasury of the California Central Valley Economic Development Corporation. CCVEDC’s mission is job creation within an eight-county region that makes up California’s Central Valley – a region whose unemployment rates are well above the State’s average.
Mr. Kahn has also served as: Chairman, Central California Valley Economic Development Corp., Founding Member, Madera Compact; Member, Past Board Member, Madera Private Industry Council; Past President, Madera Chamber of Commerce; Past Chairman, Madera City Planning Commission; Past President, Madera Community Hospital Foundation.
Melinda Brown, Vice President of Business Development has been at Kern Economic Development Corporation, Bakersfield, California since October 2004. Her primary focus is the development and promotion of Transportation, Logistics, Advanced Manufacturing and Value Added Agriculture, industries. In her capacity as Vice President of Business Development she has attracted numerous companies, including several Fortune 1000 organizations, to locate or expand their operations in Kern County.
Ms. Brown has also been a leader in the business retention and expansion program within the organization. Melinda is actively involved with the Industrial Asset Management Council (IAMC), Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR), Kern Transportation Foundation, Westside Energy Services Training (WESTEC) and the California Central Valley Economic Development.
Oliver Baines is a 25-year resident of Fresno with an extensive record of community service. His professional career began in law enforcement as a police officer for the Fresno Police Department.
During his 11 years as a Fresno Police officer, he was a highly decorated officer, receiving two Life Saving Medals, 2008 Officer of The Year recognition, Chief’s Commendations, and multiple Peer Commendations. Mr. Baines’ experience in community policing caused him to run and become a Councilmember for the City of Fresno, representing District 3 from 2011 to 2019.
During this time as Councilmember, he was active in many programs addressing the economic, social, and environmental problems afflicting Fresno including Workforce Investment Board, the Fresno Works, the San Joaquin Valley Air Board District, the Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Fresno, along with numerous community-based programs. Mr. Baines also became involved in workforce development programs and was Founder of the Valley Apprenticeship Connections (VAC), a workforce development program that focuses on preparing young men and women from the hardest neighborhoods to serve populations in the Fresno Region for a career in the Construction Trades. Since 2016 the VAC has had 339 students enrolled, 250 completed (73%), with 196 gaining employment (78%) with wages averaging over $20/hour, and 185 students (94%) keeping employment.
Mr. Baines was a Board Member of CVNMTC for nine years and recently he transitioned to the role of President and CEO of CVNMTC. During his time on the Board, he was actively involved in sourcing deals from the Fresno area and was involved in the Board approval process for CVNMTC’s investments of $95M of Allocation with $140M in project costs. Currently oversees CVNMTC’s last investment of $25M into projects that will greatly revitalize an impoverished area of Fresno.
Ricardo Arredondo was born and raised in Madera. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and has worked as a mortgage lending professional within the real estate industry for over 20 years in the central San Joaquin valley. He also served 10 years on the Board of Education for the Madera Unified School District, where he spearheaded policies to improve and increase services to disadvantaged students and their families. Mr. Arredondo’s work on career and technical education led to the introduction of career pathways and facilities dedicated to providing children with exposure to career opportunities that may not have been otherwise experienced. His efforts resulted in over $200 million of new development in an area that has been in desperate need of economic stimulus.
Mr. Arredondo is consistently working to improve the standards that define community quality by challenging the status quo and exploring good and innovative opportunities.