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Former Port Employee Moves Forward to Support Minority Businesses

November 23, 2021


Owning his own business gives Henry Yates the freedom to do what he does best — advocating for minority businesses.

Yates started Yates Consulting, a firm which focuses on diversity and inclusion, communications, and governmental affairs after a 15-year career at the Port of Seattle.

“I took the knowledge I had gained at the Port to start a business to benefit the community as well as generate income for my family. I like having a meaningful impact in the community that I live in, and I can help address issues relating to discrimination and lack of opportunity.” 

Yates spent his Port career working in federal government affairs, lobbying for the seaport, airport, tourism, and the cruise industry. He spent much of his time in Washington D.C. meeting with Washington State’s congressional delegation and with members of the U.S. House of Representatives.Henry Yates

“I helped make sure that funding came to the Port and that Port of Seattle policies were enacted. I also worked at the state level lobbying for the Port and its constituency, but it was never just about the Port; it was about the people of King County.” 

Yates says there is uncertainty to owning a business. To retain business, you must continue to impress clients with the work you do for them. Throughout the process, there is excitement, optimism, and exhilaration, he said.

“You don’t know what’s around the corner. You can be in a situation that is not to your liking at 10 a.m., and at 3 p.m., you’ve received an offer for a contract that is just what you wanted,” he said.

Port connections

He said attending PortGen workshops, which provide an opportunity for small businesses to meet Port of Seattle representatives; learn about programs, initiatives, and contracting goals; and connect to resources, has been helpful to continuing to grow his business.

“Being in the room with people from the Port, prime contractors, and other businesses gave me some visibility and allowed me to learn things I did not know. And I have used that information to move my business forward. You can enhance your business just by showing up.”

But Port Gen workshops are often just the beginning.

“Opportunities can begin with PortGen. The workshops create chances for you to follow up and be engaged, and network. And everybody there is all about business with the Port, so if you want to do business with the Port, PortGen workshops are the place to be.”

Yates is certified with the State as a minority-owned small business enterprise, and as a veteran business owner (MSVBE). He says these certifications can help give a leg up, because many public agencies have requirements or goals for hiring minority firms.

Supporting social equity

Yates is a board member at Tabor 100, an association of entrepreneurs and businesses advocates who are committed to economic power, educational excellence, and social equity for African Americans and the community at large. He believes in the power of Tabor 100 to get African American and other minority firms contracts in both the public and private sectors. 

 Yates said he wants to see more young African Americans open their own businesses.

“I’d love to help them become successful and promote their community and their family in meaningful ways. The wealth gap for African American households in Washington State is horrendous, much higher than the national average and having a business is one of the best ways to shrink that gap.”

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