Story and photo by DANEALLE PLASCENCIA
How do you picture Utah when you know the majority of the population is Mormon? Do you picture only Caucasians? What about the minorities?
For almost two decades, Utah’s population continued to rise while the percentage of its people who are Mormon slowly and steadily declined, wrote Matt Canham in an article for The Salt Lake Tribune.
Newcomers have found that Utah is economically stable and offers different sources for the community to grow in comparison to the rest of the nation.
The job rate in Utah is increasing faster than the unemployment rate, and has an attractive cost of living which is making people to consider Utah as their new home.
Like any other state, Utah offers different sources to help the community, including the minorities.
One of those sources is ACCEL (African-Americans Advancing in Commerce, Community, Education and Leadership).
This organization is committed to being the premier organization in providing education, resources and visibility for the African-American small businesses owners of Utah.
The founder of ACCEL is James Jackson III, who was born and raised in Utah.
Jackson, 33, graduated from The University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in finance and marketing.
He earned a master’s degree from the University of Phoenix in 2010.
After working on his own for a while he decided to establish ACCEL in the winter of 2009.
The main reason for the creation of this organization is the passion for business that Jackson has, especially the necessity of helping those around him in their endeavors.
Being able to offer the community more resources for education to have a better future is a main focus.
Jackson develops the idea of creating an organization from his own experience of being the owner of a small business dealing with the sale and management of properties.
That is how he noticed how the African-American community didn’t have enough resources and support to develop their business ideas.
“Creating ACCEL took a lot of time, and help from other people who I see as an example for my project,” Jackson said.
One of those people who helped Jackson is Francisco J. Sotelo, current executive director of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Jackson and Sotelo met three years ago, during an event of the UHCC. Jackson asked him for help to create a stronger organization.
Sotelo had meetings with Jackson to help him understand how a chamber works, and share his strategies that he had used to create a successful chamber.
During the meetings they shared ideas and new projects for both organizations.
Since then Jackson and Sotelo have a very good relationship.
They meet often to talk about Jackson’s projects, and to keep each other updated about their respective organization.
“Our relationship has grown over the years and as well the chambers, we had learned from each other through the years,” Sotelo said in a phone interview.
Networking plays a big role for ACCEL. Jackson believes that a networking community is more effective than one that is not really connected. That is why he is creating a new website for ACCEL with the help of Ronda Fisher.
Fisher said in a phone interview that her goal is to design the site so people can find resources and assistance more easily.
“I’m really excited to see the results,” Fisher said.
Besides being a successful business man, Jackson is a member of one of the most established black churches in Utah, the Calvary Chapel Salt Lake and makes time to be part of the church activities to be connected with the community.
Between his activities Jackson is the coach of a kids basketball team, and reads books like “Think and Grow Rich: Your Key to Financial Wealth and Power ” from the author Napoleon Hill, for personal enrichment at the start of the year.
Community is the main focus for Jackson in his life. He knows the African-American community population is only 1.3 percent in the state of Utah but that is enough for him to keep working hard to create a successful community.
“Things have changed in Utah. I remember when I was in elementary school, there were only a couple of black kids in my classroom, but things have changed since then,” Jackson said.
Jackson has dedicated the last four years to building a stronger African-American community in Utah, and all his work is being rewarded.
“Jackson works really hard every day, and has done a lot of things for ACCEL,” Fisher said.
Diversity of cultures in Utah is becoming more noticeable, and Jackson is trying to be part of it.
Jackson’s future plans for ACCEL include having more members, hiring an executive director who would be in charge of the organization, and creating scholarships like SOMOS, the prestigious award offered by the UHCC.
ACCEL, after four years of its creation, now is offering sources for 300 African-American small business owners in Utah.
“James is a great leader and represents the black community very well,” Sotelo said.