NYC Deputy Mayor Awards La-Verna Fountain Minority Enterprise Award

July 12, 2012
From left: NYC Small Business Services Commissioner Robert W. Walsh, Columbia's Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin, La-Verna Fountain and Joseph Ienuso

Deputy Mayor Robert K. Steel and Small Business Services Commissioner Robert Walsh presented La-Verna Fountain, Columbia’s vice president for Construction Business Services and Communications, with the Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise Advocate of the Year Award for Upper Manhattan. It was presented at the 2012 New York City Neighborhood Achievement Awards, held at Gracie Mansion on July 10th.

Established in 2002, the awards honor organizations, businesses and individuals that have demonstrated excellence in enhancing New York City neighborhoods by fostering economic opportunity.

"New York's network of diverse and thriving neighborhoods is the engine that powers the City's economy, and under Mayor Bloomberg's leadership, neighborhood commercial districts are stronger than ever," Deputy Mayor Steel said. "We're pleased to recognize tonight's 17 award winners who do so much to make New York City the Greatest City on Earth."

Fountain helps to lead the MWL Construction Trades Certificate Mentorship Program which was designed to help construction-trade business owners on finding business opportunities and how to bid on projects for minority, women and locally-owned businesses. The program, which has been adopted as a citywide model, has already graduated 53 firms that have received more than $60 million in contracts with New York City and Columbia University.

Fountain came to Columbia in 2006 as an associate vice president for the University’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs. A native of Mt. Union, Penn., she is a former military police officer who worked her way through Penn State-Harrisburg and was serving on the staff of Pennsylvania’s Commerce Department when she was recruited to work in the governor's office nearly 25 years ago by then-deputy chief of staff David Stone, now the Columbia’s executive vice president for communications.

She worked in a variety of state positions including the Pennsylvania State Police before rejoining Stone on the staff of former U.S. Senator Harris Wofford, managing constituent services as director of the senator’s state offices. After her time in federal government she became the senior advisor and director of Save the Children's U.S. programs developing new programs for low-income families and overseeing programs in seven Southeastern states.

An activist and leader in the field of youth service, she returned to state government as an official in Governor Rendell’s Office of Citizen Service and the Pennsylvania Department of Education before joining Columbia, where she has since earned a master's degree in negotiation and conflict resolution and is now an adjunct instructor in that program at the School of Continuing Education.

"Having seen La-Verna take on increasingly significant roles working in state and federal government, executive and legislative branches, mission driven organizations and now higher education, I know first-hand that she has a transformational impact on the people and institutions around her," said Stone. "So I'm not surprised, but I am certainly delighted to see that so many others recognize that her service at Columbia is now making a difference for our local community here in New York."

Fountain is currently co-hosting a radio program with Tony Rogers on WHCR that focuses on minority and women-owned business enterprises and was just appointed head of the Mayor's Commission on Minority and Women's Business Enterprises. At Columbia, she leads the university’s outreach and communications efforts regarding construction business opportunities and activities and manages the university’s overall effort for these groups.

"My goal is to connect people who run the best businesses with the right opportunities within Columbia University.” said Fountain. “My job is to help foster that same leadership to minority, women and local business owners," she said.

“La-Verna does a tremendous amount of work by opening doors and has been doing a remarkable job for a number of years,” said NYC Small Business Services Commissioner Robert W. Walsh.

—by Victoria Benítez