By: Tony R. McCray
This past Friday, July 22nd, from 5:00 to 8:00 pm DeVilliers Square in the Historic Belmont DeVilliers Business District, once again became the business and community networking center of Pensacola and Escambia County universe. Robin and Lloyd Reshard’s idea of monthly Fourth Friday networking events which is free, open to the public, and providing connections linking people to business opportunities, city and county resources, and job opportunities has been quite a success.
The attendees are old school, new school, and in school which gives the “Baby Boomers” the opportunity to test their ability to stay abreast with the fast moving DNA of the “New Millennials”! Then there is the mix of younger students with their parents who may be vendors or performing artists, or even college students who are there to satisfy their curiosity of the networking culture. All in all, the first floor of DeVilliers Square is transformed into an eclectic, business oriented, relationship building, and community-minded “networking place-to-be”.
Robin and Lloyd are the preeminent emcees emanating the tact and comedy of a professional stage or television tag-team hosts. They always make sure that the entertainment exudes the African-American heritage culture. Therefore, in the second year in a row, Polimbatree Griots Ensemble performed to the extreme satisfaction of the audience. The dancers were Abena Whasayo Isake, Eurydice Stanley, and her daughter Grace Stanley. Their moves were a sterling example of traditional African tribal dancers. The founder of the ensemble, LePoleon Williams, also performed during the dance routines with his entertaining drum beats keeping the music as his consistent offering of enjoyment to those in attendance. The poem “Women of Blackness” was skillfully orchestrated with LePoleon drum beats, once again in the background, and Abena belting out the true attributes of women of Blackness.
All of the sponsors for the Pensacola Network were asked to come up front for recognition. The Pensacola Voice is included in the list of founding sponsors which also include: WRNE 980, Magic 106.1, Channel 3, Pensacola News Journal, City of Pensacola, Escambia County, Gulf Power, Pensacola State College, UWF, Pensacola Chamber, Studer Community Development, ProCard, and AIM Escambia.
The speaker of the evening was the evening was Quint Studer, health services entrepreneur, community philanthropist, and real estate developer. Quint spoke on the art of business branding, contracting and employment diversity, weaving the Blue Wahoos Baseball Team into his presentation, when he stated, “We want people to think of a clean place, a family friendly- place”. He, also, defined the “Studer brand” as being very strict on community involvement and diversity as he defined the “Covenant with the Community” as a program they use “to make it (diversity) happen. The Covenant has a hiring policy of 75% of the workers on his projects must live in Escambia and/or Santa Rosa Counties. He went on to offer to those in attendance that one of his projects had just hired a minority business in Escambia County to perform on an $800,000 concrete contract.
Lloyd Reshard does more than just the Pensacola Network. He serves as the president of Pivotal Data Technologies; his company develops mobile and web applications for networking purposes. He serves on the Mechanical Engineering Advisory Committee at FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and the Board of Trustees Community Maritime Park Associates Inc. Additionally, he has served as a part-time senior research scientist at George Washington University. He is a national award-winning engineer.
The busy activity of the first floor area of the DeVilliers Square building can be seen from the street creating a magnet of interest to get involved in the mix. The meet and greet atmosphere is only slowed down by the hosting couple of Lloyd and Robin Reshard when they take center stage under the three floor atrium to award door prizes and present their guest for the evening.
The Sponsors and partners for the event include Gulf Power Company, DeVilliers Square, Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, Studer Community Development, Pensacola State College, the University of West Florida, Cox Communications, Buttons and Accessories, West Florida Hospital, Baptist Hospital, Gulf
Coast African American Chamber of Commerce, Nowak Enterprises, Lewis Bear Company, Five Sisters Blues Café, Pay Cell Systems, RCE Consulting, Huey Works, Harriet Wyer, Ed Sheffield, Rashad Rouse, Dr. Earl Crosswright, Fred Gant, Medi Home Health Agency, AIM Escambia, City of Pensacola, Escambia
County, Truth for Youth, the Honor System, She’s Social, Pivotal Data Technologies, Robert Robino Productions, and many others. Media partners include WRNE 980/CHOICE 106.9, WRRX Magic 106.1, WEAR TV3 (ABC), the Pensacola News Journal and the Pensacola Voice
Lloyd Reshard says the Pensacola Network was built on the power of connections, and the multiplying effects of strong relationships, especially in the African American community. “We knew going into a monthly network idea that the success depended on the average person using their extraordinary connections and telling others about it,” said Reshard, an electrical engineer and entrepreneur. Three years later, the idea and the connections are still going strong. Every month, he sees 75 to 100 people formulating ideas about the economic and community development needs and actions that make the area stronger. “Our idea is to provide a consistent opportunity for those ideas to flow, to connect people who want to see positive change, and to strengthen those relationships,” Reshard said.
One of those people who have seen the results of those connections is Josie Baptiste. As the owner of JBIT MedPro, a new medical device company, Baptiste is amazed by the connections she has made at the network. In the beginning, she admits her shyness was not helping her company grow. “The more you know about the other people, the better,” she said. “You cannot share what you don’t know. The impact is huge and the people that I’ve met are taking our company in the right direction.”
Reshard said when people consistently talk with each other, ideas are exchanged and people are energized and reenergized. “Especially when those ideas are different from their own,” Reshard said. “Success does not depend on people having the same idea,” he said, “But it does depend on people and ideas.” And after three years and two thousand people, the people and the ideas are stronger than ever.