Chair of Board
Bruce Watts has been an active advocate for minority communities in Portland for over 25 years working professionally as the Senior Director of Diversity and Transit Equity for Trimet for over a decade creating a national model for providing opportunities for involvement by minority businesses and has lead work with labor unions, pre-apprenticeship programs, community-based organizations, and local leaders to create a diverse contracting and construction workforce reflecting the Portland metro community. Bruce continues his work currently as a D/M/W/ESB Opportunity Consultant with organizations like the PDC, DOT, State of Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, Urban League of Portland, City of Portland Housing Bureau, Hoffman Construction, and City of Roses Disposal & Recycling. Personally, Bruce has been an active board member for the Urban League of Portland, Metropolitan Contractors Improvement Program, Josiah Hill III Clinic, and Verde.
Shobi Dahl is the co-founder and former CEO of Dave’s Killer Bread, a company whose beliefs are built on the idea of second chances and equal employment opportunity for the underserved ex-con members of our community. A graduate of Willamette University in 2005, Shobi greatly enjoys sharing his company’s message of social sustainability with members of the business community and students. He hopes to build a better understanding amongst our business leaders of the broad benefits of working with the underserved.
Bryson Davis is an attorney at Harrang Long Gary Rudnick, P.C. in their Portland office. He represents clients on business matters, in business litigation and is a member of HLGR’s Indian Law and Policy team. Bryson currently volunteers with the Portland City Club’s Business and Prosperity Forum and he coaches the Jefferson High School Mock Trial Team. He was a player on the USA Touch Rugby National Team and played in the 2011 and 2015 Touch World Cups. Bryson was Touch Rugby National Champion in 2008, 2012 and 2013 with the Portland Hunters. He also trains mixed martial arts at his gym, World Class Athletics.
Professor Howard Feldman is the founding Executive Director of Nonprofit Management Programs for the Pamplin School of Business at the University of Portland. Previous to starting this program, he was the Associate Dean for Graduate Programs in the School of Business. His teaching interests lie in the areas of strategic management, entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, and social responsibility. Professor Feldman has published extensively, in journals such as The Journal of Business Venturing, The Journal of Small Business Management, The Case Research Journal, The Journal of Applied Case Research, and others. He has presented papers at numerous regional, national and international meetings on both research and teaching issues. Before coming to Portland, Professor Feldman taught for nine years at the University of Colorado Boulder and lectured at graduate business schools in Madrid, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Chernivtzi, Ukraine. He has served on several boards of directors for nonprofit organizations and was the president of a Portland social service agency from 1998 to 2000 and 2001 to 2002. Previous to joining academia, he worked in industry for seven years, primarily in marketing and management positions in New Jersey and Atlanta, Georgia.
Alan Garcia is Senior Director of Customer Acquisition at NW Natural where he oversees marketing, customer acquisition services, and major accounts. He is a marketing and sales executive with deep experience in strategic planning, brand strategy, marketing, and customer experience management with such world-class brands as Nestlé, Hewlett-Packard, Gillette, and Mars, Incorporated.
Alan has held a long-term leadership role at Columbia Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, WA of community development efforts in Senegal, West Africa. Since 1998, the program has successfully fostered long-term partnerships with dozens of rural villages to secure clean water, primary education, primary health care, and micro-enterprise. His involvement and leadership has taken him to Senegal nine times since 2000.
Mr. Garcia holds a BA in Business Administration from California Lutheran University and is graduate of University of San Francisco where he received an MBA. Alan lives in Camas, WA with his wife, Lyn, and three daughters.
Angie Garcia, the founder of Escuela Viva, is first and foremost a mom to two beautiful children. Angie began her journey as an entrepreneur when she could not find the type of preschool experience that she wanted for her daughter. Angie, having had many years experience in both early childhood programs like Head Start as well as experience in child care settings, felt she had a good grasp of what makes a solid nurturing preschool. July 2004, Escuela Viva opened its’ doors for the first time in her remodeled basement.
Tens years of successful operation, Escuela Viva could not have done it without the generous financial support from Ascent Funding. It was thanks to lending from Ascent Funding that Escuela Viva could move three small locations into one large facility and increase the number of children and families served. Though the idea of finding financial support sounds easy, most financial institutions found it difficult to lend to such a small business, especially one owned and operated by a single mom. Yet, Ascent Funding looked beyond tax returns and year end books and took time to understand how investing in Escuela Viva could be beneficial to Ascent Funding and the broader community.
Before Escuela Viva, Angie graduated from PSU with a Bachelor of Arts in 1995 and in 1997 graduated from PSU’s Master’s of Social Work program. Angie has many years experience working with families on a number of levels from child abuse prevention, domestic violence and child welfare. Now semi retired from Escuela Viva, and the school strong and vibrant, Angie can devote her time to the school and being a mom to her daughter, Mayah and her son, Eddie, as well as other endeavors that are close to her heart, such as Ascent Funding.
Ward Greene was born in Boston, raised in New York, went to college in Florida, graduated from law school in North Carolina, practiced law in Wisconsin, and then became a “native” Oregonian in 1977. He is a commercial lawyer and the managing partner of a small firm in Portland. He has served as president of the local bar association and vice president of the Oregon State Bar, and has held a number of honorary positions at other bar and volunteer organizations. Mr. Greene is one of the founders of Senior Advocates for Generational Equity (SAGE) and has been a lifelong progressive.
Chris Guinn III
Chris Guinn III is a lifetime resident of Portland, Oregon, who has been in business over 25 years. Chris’s early career was in the beauty/barber business. After 15 years he transitioned that business into a highly successful real estate career. Chris now operates what has been called the largest black owned real estate company in Oregon history. Dwell Realty offers an array of real estate services in addition to residential sales, commercial sales/leasing, property management and relocation. Chris understands the efforts, the struggles and the triumphs of the small minority business owner in Portland, and is excited to have the opportunity to implement his skills and share his expertise with Ascent Funding.
Nkenge Harmon Johnson
Nkenge Harmon Johnson is a small business owner and attorney. She co-founded Harmon Johnson LLC, a full-service law firm assisting Oregon families, businesses and organizations. The firm provides services in civil litigation, criminal defense, crisis management, public affairs strategy and advocacy. Ms. Harmon Johnson also owns and operates a commercial property development and management company. She has experience in international trade, small business development and government. She has served as the Deputy Assistant United States Trade Representative responsible for creating and executing the strategy to communicate the benefits of U.S. trade agreements and enforcement to the public, businesses, manufacturers, farmers, ranchers and labor across the country. Previously, Ms. Harmon Johnson worked in both chambers of Congress, including for the U.S. Senate Majority Leader. She serves currently on the executive boards of the Oregon Women Lawyers Foundation and the Oregon Chapter of the National Bar Association. Along with her husband, attorney Erious Johnson, she regularly volunteers with local civic and community organizations.
Art Hiemstra has been providing debt capital to Northwest companies for over 30 years. Currently he is a senior vice president at the Bank of the Cascades, an Oregon bank focused on providing loans to Portland area businesses. Art was previously president of Vencore Capital, a private equity funded venture debt provider that loaned over $200 million to emerging growth companies nationwide from its Lake Oswego base. Working with entrepreneurs has always been a focus for Art and he worked with hundreds while at Vencore and previously at Silicon Valley Bank, where he managed the bank’s Northwest Division. He is familiar with financing growth and development and the fine art of creating the right mix of debt and equity capital. Hiemstra grew up in east Multnomah County, in Corbett, is a graduate of Pacific University and has an MBA from Stanford University.
Sheila Holden is Regional Community Manager for Pacific Power and serves as a Board Director for Albina Community Bank. In addition, Ms. Holden serves as President of the North/Northeast Economic Development Alliance. Ms. Holden is also a member of the N/NE Business Association and Chair of the Interstate Urban Renewal Area Advisory Committee.
Tony Hopson is a native of Portland, Oregon, and is a respected neighborhood and community leader. He graduated from Willamette University with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and Sociology and a teaching certificate in 1977. That same year he earned a counseling certificate from Portland State University. From 1977 to 1985, Mr. Hopson taught, counseled and coached for Portland Public Schools. He founded Self Enhancement, Inc. (SEI) in 1981 as a one-week summer camp committed to improving collegiate and employment opportunities for high school students. The initial camp served 80 students. In 1988, SEI became a year-round program. During a capital campaign that began in 1989, SEI raised over $10 million to build the 62,000 sq. ft. Center for Self Enhancement which opened its doors in 1997. Since then, SEI has expanded to serve more than 3,000 students and over 5,000 families per year with its comprehensive, wraparound services. In 2006, the program was recognized nationally as a premier youth development program by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, and with their support, is replicating the SEI program in Miami, Florida in partnership with Alonzo Mourning and Dwyane Wade. Mr. Hopson has also been recognized for his activism and community leadership by receiving numerous awards including: the Urban League of Portland’s “Equal Opportunity Award”, the “Living Legend Award” from Willamette University, Portland’s “First Citizen Award”, the “Oregon Ethics in Business Award”, and the “Distinguished Service Award” from the University of Oregon.
Jeffrey Lang is one of the two founding partners of Gales Creek Insurance Services, a national firm based in Portland, Oregon that builds innovative insurance products for many sectors of the US economy, including the nonprofit & entertainment industries. Before Gales Creek he held positions in London and San Francisco where he used Risk Management and Pooling techniques to lower the cost of insurance to the consumer. Today he designs and implements new programs for associations and affinity groups that have been under-served by the traditional insurance market. Mr. Lang is very active in the Portland community with an emphasis on disenfranchised groups in the inner city. He helped found the Community Energy Project, which teaches and provides weatherization resources to seniors and low income residents. He is an officer of MESO, Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon, which provides loans, grants and technical assistance to individuals to help them launch small businesses. Mr. Lang is a board member of Friends of Tryon Creek State Park, which operates environmental education programs for youth as well as a Nature Center and a summer camp.
Melissa Sanger is Relationship Manager at Wells Fargo.
Erik Selden is a Vice President of Business Banking at First Citizens Bank serving Southwest Washington and the Portland Metro Area. He has experience in underwriting and developing new business. He currently serves as the Board President for the Northwest Association for Blind Athletes and is a member of the WSU Vancouver Diversity Advisory Board. Erik is a native of Southern California and a graduate of Portland State University.
Amy Wayson served as Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) until 2014. In that capacity, she was OHSU’s chief legal officer, she oversaw the OHSU Integrity Program and she served as secretary to the OHSU Board of Directors. Prior to joining OHSU in 2000, Ms. Wayson was a partner with the Portland law firm of Ater Wynne, LLP, practicing with that firm in Portland, Oregon as well as in Seattle, Washington. Ms. Wayson has a long history of community involvement in Portland. In addition to volunteering for various nonprofits, she has served as a member and chair of the Board of Directors of Volunteers of America of Oregon, and as a Board member and officer of Metropolitan Family Services and of the Urban League of Portland. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors of Literary Arts. Ms. Wayson is married to Ken Moran, a fine furniture maker, and she proudly claims two daughters, a stepdaughter and a stepson.