Astra Women's Business Alliance Host Historic Economic Summit in Alaska

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Astra Women's Business Alliance gathered corporate, government and women’s business leaders in Anchorage, Alaska, along with members of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s (WBENC) Executive Committee, with the goal of expanding opportunities for women’s businesses to capture a larger share of the billions of dollars spent there.

Eighty business leaders including 42 women business owners came together on October 20-21, 2014, to inform, educate and collaborate on best practices for increasing economic development and job creation for women’s businesses in Alaska. This initiative was developed to directly address the subpar rate of growth for women’s businesses in the state, currently experiencing the lowest in the country.

"WBENC was proud to show the government leaders and WBEs of Alaska that our Corporate Members are interested in learning about them and doing business in this great state. There is much growth opportunity to mine in Alaska and this Economic Summit demonstrated that potential,” said Pamela Prince-Eason, President and CEO of WBENC. “Through our partnership with WBENC and Alaska local leadership, Astra is committed to helping open more doors for women business owners in Alaska which can help foster growth and new revenues coming to the state,” said Diane McClelland, Astra President/CEO. Astra is one of 14 Regional Partner Organizations (RPOs) that conduct WBENC certification across the country, in addition to delivering business-building skills and access to corporate and government decision makers through workshops and networking events.

Members of WBENC's Board of Directors in attendance included representatives from Raytheon Company; Johnson & Johnson; BP America, Inc.; UPS; Altria Group, Inc.; IBM Corporation; Dell Inc.; KPMG LLP; Ernst & Young LLP, and Bank of America. Special guests were Janet Weiss, BP Alaska President; Benita Fortner, WBENC Board Chair, who also represented Raytheon in her role as Director of Supplier Diversity, and Prince-Eason.

On hand to welcome the guests were Astra Alaska State Forum members, including Gail Morrison, President of Allied GIS and the Alaska State Forum Leader, and new Joint Leaders Deborah O'Leary, President of Alaska Green Solutions, Inc. and Terri Froese, President of TDL Staffing, Inc. "The conference provided a great opportunity for our Alaska Women Owned Businesses to network and potentially team with strong Lower 48 firms and local firms for the purpose of securing contracts in not only Alaska but also the Lower 48 and worldwide," Morrison said.

As part of the event, attendees met at the BP Energy Center for “Matchmaker Meetings & Workshops,” where women business owners learned about new opportunities directly from corporate and government agency representatives, as well as successful WBENC-certified WBEs who shared how they have used their certification as a platform to grow their businesses.

Sponsors for the two day event were BP America, Inc, ExxonMobil, ALOM, Hunter Hawk, Inc, Olsa Resources, Inc. and Allied GIS, Inc. Women-owned businesses grew at only 11 percent over the last 17 years, as compared to the national figure of 68 percent, according to the State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, prepared by Womenable for American Express OPEN.

About Astra: Astra Women’s Business Alliance is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation and a regional partner of WBENC. Astra provides WBENC and Women Owned Small Business (WOSB) certification to qualified women-owned businesses in the states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Northern California, Oregon, & Washington. Astra champions business growth by creating opportunities for contracts with large corporations and government agencies while providing these organizations with highly qualified strategic resources. For more information visit:

About WBENC Founded in 1997, WBENC is the leading third-party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women, with more than 12,000 WBENC-Certified WBEs. WBENC certification is accepted by more than 1,000 corporations representing America’s most prestigious brands, in addition to many states, cities and other entities. Throughout the year, WBENC and its 14 Regional Partner Organizations provide opportunities for interactions between more than 650 member corporations, government agencies and thousands of certified WBEs at business building events and other forums. WBENC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that seeks and accepts donations from corporations, foundations and individuals that support its mission and programs. For more information about WBENC visit:

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Diane McClelland
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