Dynamic diversity: 25 minority-owned companies excelling across the state

Taken from: Business North Carolina, Magazine, February 2022

Decades of talk about the importance of empowering minority-owned businesses has led to limited success. The gap between Black and Caucasian household incomes widened in recent years, partly because of the pandemic’s impact. Wealth-building remains a challenge for many of nearly 40% of the U.S. population that identifies as a racial or ethnic minority.

Still, there’s hope that 2021 marked a turning point given unprecedented attention paid by major corporations and economic development groups to empower minority entrepreneurs. When Business North Carolina sought nominations to spotlight thriving minority-owned businesses, we received an outpouring of suggestions that led to this feature. It presents an optimistic picture.

Featured businesses range from contractors to restaurateurs to small-batch specialty retailers. It includes the state’s largest minority-owned law firm, the nation’s second-biggest minority-owned bank, and a furniture store owner who emigrated from Mexico to Duplin County at age 19. Well-known leaders are spotlighted along with some new faces.

These companies have operated for at least three years, shown revenue growth and demonstrated an impact on the community through innovative products, services and civic leadership. Several diverse N.C. business leaders helped advise the magazine’s editors as we considered the nominations.

There will be a time when business publications won’t need to identify minority-owned enterprises, and some owners this year emphasized their pride in operating successfully without labels. The companies stand on their own merits. Still, most leaders acknowledged the importance of greater inclusion in the broader business community while noting the reality that business success inevitably requires personal initiative.

As Kenansville farmer Ron Simmons quoted his grandfather’s advice, “The only one that controls your destination ultimately is you.”

The Southeast’s strong construction market is buoying Metcon, which reported a 43% increase in revenue to $150 million last year. It’s an acceleration of a long-term success story engineered by Pembroke native Aaron Thomas, who started the company at age 23. He has built a major sense of pride in the Lumbee Native American community that is centered in Robeson County.

Last year, Metcon expanded its management team by hiring Steven Hunt as chief operating officer and named Thomas Plant as vice president of operations for the Raleigh market. Plant is a veteran industry executive who most recently worked for Choate Construction.

Metcon also added 10 staff members last year and maintained its record of never having companywide layoffs.

Key projects in the past year include the Robeson County Administration Building in Lumberton, the business school building at UNC Pembroke, a residence hall at the UNC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, and public schools in Mecklenburg and Harnett counties. Metcon is also involved in the construction of the Catawba Two Kings Casino in Kings Mountain and Concord’s electric operations center.

The Charlotte Minority Enterprise Council named Metcon as its Diversity Firm of the Year in 2021.

“I love it because we are creating something that will be there for my lifetime and well beyond,” Thomas told Business North Carolina last year.