From left, Randall Cooper, Cynthia Sterling, Gail Crooms and William Broomfield are the core team behind the Global Economic Impact Group. Photo by Frank Lopez
Written by Edward Smith
When Col. Allen Allensworth came to Tulare County more than 110 years ago, he hoped to forge a community where African Americans could start a new life outside of the Jim Crow South.
During its peak in the early half of the 1920s, the all-Black town of Allensworth had about 300 residents, many of whom were farmers. It also had two schools and several businesses including a bakery, livery stable, machine shop, drug store and the Allensworth Hotel.
Historians believe racist policies led to a shortage of farmland water for the community. The Santa Fe Railroad also relocated a railway stop necessary for the town’s commerce, leading to economic decline. Residents left for other opportunities.
Today, some of the residents of Allensworth (population 575) are descendants of those original settlers.
However, Col. Allensworth’s vision of creating opportunity and prosperity for African-Americans who faced a lifetime of hardship is still being carried on.
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Fresno-based Global Economic Impact Group (GEIG) is a full-service business and construction company that assists businesses, entrepreneurs and construction clients plan, organize and manage their daily operations, grow their businesses and navigate the bidding process.
Clients of GEIG can take advantage of a variety of services including business development, public relations, web design, tax preparation, accounting, lobbying support and more.
On the building , GEIG has partnered with firms including Menco Construction Management and B & B Construction to provide complete development services including land acquisition, corporate entity formation, obtaining entitlements, performing general construction contracting and securing financing.
A big hurdle for minority-owned construction companies is securing a high enough bonding capacity to bid on major projects. GEIG draws on some of its major construction partners to help in that regard.
Around 7 months ago, Randall Cooper, CEO of GEIG, was having a conversation with COO William Broomfield about the issues startup businesses were experiencing.
“We saw so many businesses, especially on the construction side, that couldn’t get off the ground,” Cooper said. “They weren’t organized, didn’t have all their paperwork in place. We are dealing with the Public Utilities Commission and they were saying they were having problems with minority businesses not having everything in place, so we started the business development side.”
Leading GEIG along with Fresno City Hall veterans Cooper and Broomfield is Director of Operations Dr. Gail Crooms and Director of Public Affairs Cynthia A. Sterling.
Sterling is a former two-term Fresno City Council member and is currently the Fresno/San Joaquin Valley Chapter president of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA). Crooms is the current BWOPA communications manager and secretary and is also a trustee for Lemoore Union Elementary School District.
Cooper said GEIG is still developing its systems, but the company is already developing nine businesses — mostly from out of the Fresno area. Along with Allensworth, GEIG has a number of projects in the queue, along with negotiations with the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority for part of a $6.8 billion project.
Broomfield said there are many barriers keeping minorities out of industries like construction such as bonding, insurance, access to opportunities and understanding the bidding process.
“We are bringing all minorities together that really want to be successful and be able to compete, and we are coming together as a team so that we can go after these opportunities,” Broomfield said.
A major goal for the team at GEIG is to step up the bidding game of Black and minority contractors. While major contracts often require a portion of the work to be done by such companies, government agencies often give the excuse that they can’t find them, Cooper said.
GEIG aims to be the place a major company or public sector entity can call to make those connections with minority contractors.
In August the formal launch of the revitalization of the Col. Allensworth State Historic Park was announced. GEIG will be leading and organizing the revitalization project through a partnership with the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
Cooper said that Col. Allensworth State Historic Park lacks the amenities that would make families want to visit, including as barbecue pits, basketball courts and splash parks. The area has been neglected for years.
Plans for the revitalized park would include an expanded visitor center, amphitheater, play area for children, shade structures and a demonstration farm.
Even through the park has historical ties to the African-American community, around 95% of its current residents are Hispanic. The team at GEIG wants to cater to their needs as well and have enough space for dances, quinceñeras, weddings and more.
GEIG has also reached out to the African-American Museum in Washington D.C. to discuss travelling historical exhibits to display at the Col. Allensworth State Park.
In what may be a first-of-its-kind arrangement with California State Parks, GEIG has been empowered to pull the process together as well as raise funds for the project, Sterling said.
Cooper said the 8-person team at GEIG is working to become “Destination Creators,” with a major destination-marketing project for a start-up Southern California community that will be coming online very soon.
With the Allensworth project being closer to home, it’s all about creating a space worthy to be named after such a Black trailblazer.
“If you look at Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Allensworth State historic park is equal to that, and we were ahead of Tulsa, so it will be resonating on that level of importance. First, we are crossing all our T’s and dotting all our I’s—practicing what we preach,” Sterling said.
The current goal for fundraising is less of a dollar amount and more of a goal to make it a tourist destination, but also have enough enough money to maintain the new facilities. There is also a budget from California State Parks and GEIG is working with them to make sure the project is pulled through.
GEIG already has connections with universities to work on the agricultural aspects of the project and wants to connect with the U.S. military to build a fort to highlight the accomplishments of the U.S. Buffalo Soldiers and their contributions to the Central Valley. Allensworth served as a chaplain with the Buffalo Soldiers.
In the spirit of Allensworth, GEIG is taking the lead in empowering all businesses — minority owned or not.
“There isn’t anything we won’t be able to do,” Sterling said. “No program we won’t be able to implement, no opportunity we won’t be able to go after — so watch this space and keep it open.”