Greenville, Mississippi entrepreneur creating job opportunities in the local community

Greenville, Mississippi entrepreneur creating job opportunities in the local community

Korey Adams has more than 20 years of experience in job corps management. He returned to Greenville, Mississippi, in Washington County, a persistent poverty county in the Mississippi River Delta where he was born. He wanted to bring jobs to the area and economic development, which is scarce in the regions that have faced 30 or more years of poverty.

He started his own business in job corps management called Distinction, LLC, and officially opened April 5, 2017, in Greenville.

In early 2019, Korey attended a workshop on economic development in rural areas and started a conversation with the woman next to him. That woman turned out to be Ines Polonius, CEO of Communities Unlimited (CU). One of six CDFIs that make up the steering committee leads the Partners for Rural Transformation (PRT).

“I’m a man of faith,” Korey said. “Some people would call it just happenstance. I call it divine connection.”

Ines told Korey about the services and resources CU offered for entrepreneurs.

She referred Korey to a CU Management Consultant. Together they conducted an initial assessment to discuss Korey’s goals and needs for his business.

Over the next few months, Korey gathered the needed information for the business plan scope and projections; by July, the task was complete.

Korey understood how job corps worked, but translating it into a traditional business format understood by financial institutions and investors was more difficult.

With the goals, projections, and proper business format in hand, Korey set out to apply for government contracts for facilities management. The federal government runs job corps centers across the United States that recruit workers into skilled trades, an area facing increasing shortages as Baby Boomers retire. Youth ages 16-24 work on campus — and often reside there — to learn career trade skills while completing their GEDs or high school diploma curriculum. The running of such centers is operated by various management agencies that oversee the operations of the facility.

Distinction, LLC, applied for job corps management contracts in various locations.

On November 11, 2020, Korey received word that Distinction had been awarded a contract for management work at a government facility in Roswell, New Mexico. The five-year contract totaled $41.2 million.

As great as the news was for Korey, he realized the implications — there was a lot of work to do.

The most pressing issue was finding startup capital for the contract. Initial projections indicated the business needed between $350,000 and $390,000 in capital to move the contract forward.

With the acquisition of the contract, the need for capital took top priority. The question was, where was Korey going to get nearly $400,000 in capital? How would he find investors for a small, minority-owned business that was only three years old?

“What must be demonstrated to the government in terms of that financial capability is the ability to carry the contract financially over a one- to two-month period,” he said. “To come up with the sort of

capital and collateral that traditional banks want to see in order to access those types of finances is an uphill climb.

The Partners for Rural Transformation combined their resources, providing Distinction, LLC with $500,000 in capital. The funding allowed Distinctions to begin the work necessary to start its contractual obligations. One of the partner organizations could not have made this size of a loan by themselves to Distinction. Together PRT made it possible to strengthen the economy of a persistently poor county and a minority-owned business. PRT recognizes that only together can we truly change the trajectory of persistent poverty counties to persistent prosperity.

Distinction, LLC is aggressively bidding for job corps contracts. He is working with PRT partner cdcb’s Executive Director Nick Mitchel-Bennet on job corps contracts in Texas.

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