The Institute's leadership team of nationally recognized experts brings deep knowledge, broad networks and strong commitment to the work of creating companies that are stronger and more profitable because of their diversity.
President and Chief Executive Officer
Joining the Institute as its new President and Chief Executive Officer in October of 2014, he directs the staff in the development and implementation of programs and strategies that works to improve the utilization of Historically Underutilized Businesses. Mr. Ali has proven his ability to address the capital needs of large and small businesses, and the capacity to leverage business relationships to attain market development and procurement opportunities for minority business. He has facilitated business contracting opportunities and has matched fund them with debt and equity placement. Mr. Ali has also worked with Fortune 1000 companies to assist them in developing supplier diversity utilization programs that leverage procurement opportunities. Ali is recognized locally and nationally as a staunch advocate for minority business. Mr. Ali has an MBA from Campbell University, Post Graduate Studies in Emerging Business Markets from Dartmouth College, Tuck School of Business, and a Bachelor’s in Business Administration, UNC Chapel Hill.
Chief Operating Officer | Project Director, U.S. DOT - Small Business Transportation Resource Center
As a member of the Institute’s Executive Management Team, Ms. Gantt oversees the organization’s ongoing operations at multiple locations within and beyond the state of North Carolina. Ms. Gantt is responsible for implementing business strategies, plans and procedures; establishing policies that promote the organization’s culture and vision; managing relationships with partners and vendors; and working with programs to manage and achieve program goals and objectives. Ms. Gantt provides the leadership, management and vision necessary to ensure the organization’s operational controls and administrative systems are working efficiently and effectively, promoting the financial strength and growth of the organization. Ms. Gantt has an extensive background in banking operations and finance including commercial and retail lending, and holds numerous credentials including Project Management from NC State University and Certified Compliance Administrator from Morgan State University.
Tanya Branch, CPA
Chief Financial Officer
Tanya has over 20 years experience in the field of auditing and accounting of not-for-profit organizations and over 12 years experience as Chief Financial Officer of community economic development not-for-profit organizations. As CFO she has the responsibility for overseeing all aspects of the financial management process for the Institute. She works closely with the president, board of directors and staff to develop the organization’s operating budget as well as individual program budgets. Tanya has also served as President for not-for-profit organization and community development credit unions, in addition to developing an Accounting Service Center to serve as back office operations for community development credit unions across the State of North Carolina. Tanya is a graduate of North Carolina Central University, with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration.
Bellandra Foster, Ph.D., P.E.
Director, NCDOT - OJT Civil Industry Program
Dr. Foster has over 30 years of professional experience, and is a licensed professional engineer. She has been a manager and administrator of numerous projects as a supervisor in public agencies and private industry. Dr. Foster is a Founder, President and Principal Engineer of a civil engineering corporation. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy, Civil Engineering from Michigan State University.
S. Briles Johnson
Executive Director, Women's Business Center of North Carolina
As the Director of the Institute's Women’s Business Center, she directs the WBC staff in the development of trainings and counseling programs for women entrepreneurs across the state. The Women’s Business Center is a partnership between the Institute and the U.S. Small Business Administration. In 2014, Briles and her staff were awarded the Women’s Business Center of Excellence Award for the Nation, Southeast Region and North Carolina. Before coming to the Institute in 2011, Briles worked for the NC Department of Commence as an Economic Developer/Business Manager. Briles is a graduate of Meredith College and the Universidad de Nebrija, Madrid, Spain and is also a Certified Global Business Professional, NasBite International.
Cheri Selby Pearson
Director, Public Allies North Carolina
Cheri Selby Pearson is a thought leader in the nonprofit sector with expertise in law, public policy, philanthropy, nonprofit management, community development and cultivating public private partnerships. As the Executive Director of Public Allies North Carolina, Cheri is responsible for the strategic implementation of programs and leadership of staff, business development, external relations, the development of member program curriculum and the expansion of Public Allies in the nonprofit sector across North Carolina.
Public Allies North Carolina is a partnership between the Institute and Public Allies, Inc., an AmeriCorps program that prepares young adults to advance new leadership that serves to strengthen communities, nonprofits, and promotes civic participation. Cheri works tirelessly to increase the number of underrepresented next generation of leaders, who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact their communities. Cheri graduated from North Carolina Central University School of Law, and holds an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Northeastern University as well as a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University.
Project Director, MBDA Business Center
Dan has ten years’ experience in managing minority business center offices and extensive knowledge of MBDA marketing and administrative operations, and 30 years experience in preparing comprehensive business plans, loan packages, and market feasibility studies. Dan successfully manages Center’s staff, operations, and vision in meeting MBDA goals and achieving and continually meets Outstanding Performance Ratings. The MBDA is a partnership between the Institute and the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency. Dan received his MBA from Western Carolina University and a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology from Appalachian State University.