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A little help goes a long way in fostering a successful business. JE Dunn, one of the nation's leading commercial and industrial construction companies, created a formalized education program for potential subcontractors emphasizing working to empower minority and women-owned companies.  

The program, which lasts eight months, allows selected minority contractors “to build strategic relationships with our key decision-makers so they can understand how to do business with us,” said Cherelle Cortez, East Region senior diversity and inclusion manager. “Our classes are facilitated by our subject matter experts, and this is where that relationship-building happens.” 

The program vets potential participants to make sure their companies align with JE Dunn’s business, according to Mike Bartlett, executive vice president and division manager at JE Dunn.  

“We're getting small businesses that want to grow and they’re businesses we can actually work with,” he added.  

Each applicant is interviewed by a JE Dunn risk manager to identify the types of jobs it is best suited to pursue. “We want to know what type of projects you like to work on, whether that's K-12, aviation, manufacturing and industrial,” said Cortez. “Our risk manager is dedicated to helping us find that right size opportunity for these small businesses.” 

One of the most successful graduates is Archie Deese, owner of The Paint Doctor, a commercial painting contractor who has completed dozens of jobs for the company. 

After moving to Atlanta some 20 years ago, Deese launched a painting company doing high-end designer homes.  

Ten years into that work, he said, “I realized that if I really wanted to increase my game, I should get into commercial [painting],” he said, adding that he wanted to work with architects and project managers well-versed in construction management and best practices.