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When it comes to helping companies led by women and minority business people, Esperanza Massana-Crane can relate, doubly.
Massana-Crane, who was named Thursday as the new director of the state’s Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Division, is a veteran economic development marketer who happens to be a woman and a native Salvadoran.
The division, known by its acronym MWOBE, is part of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. Its previous director, the impeccable Pat Brown, retired in December.
Massana-Crane, who was the AEDC’s marketing director before the promotion, also knows business on the ground, with an early stint on her resume assisting Nine West’s general manager in El Salvador and seven years as an account executive and research director at CJRW, the Little Rock advertising and marketing firm.
“You bloom where you’re planted,” Massana-Crane said when she was honored as an Arkansas Business 40 Under 40 recipient in 2018, adding that moving to Arkansas as a teenager “opened a new world for me.”
Raised in Santa Tecla, El Salvador, where her grandfather taught her the value of working hard, Massana-Crane arrived in Searcy at 17 at Harding University, where she got a bachelor’s in 2002 and an MBA in 2005. She speaks Spanish, English and German, and was showered in praise this week by state development officials and former bosses.
In a statement, Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said Massana-Crane has excelled in every task she’s been given in seven years at the AEDC.
“We conducted a thorough search for the next person to fill this position, and we are confident that Esperanza’s diverse professional portfolio and experience will be an incredible asset to the state,” Preston said. “Pat Brown dedicated many years to improving the lives of Arkansans as director, and I have no doubt that Esperanza will continue to lead the division with excellence and demonstrate commitment to the business communities it serves.”
David Martin, who recognized Massana-Crane’s potential back when he was CJRW’s chief executive officer, called her “the best hire I ever made.”
The MWOBE offers minority-owned enterprises technical and professional aid, state vendor certification, and chances to network and do business with AEDC partners in state and federal government, higher education and lending.
Massana-Crane will oversee the state’s online directory of minority-owned firms, featuring hundreds of businesses. The state reviews documents and makes on-site visits to ensure that women own 51% of the companies. The program, which sets goals for state spending with minority-owned vendors, is available to enterprises that have less than $10 million a year in revenue.
Massana-Crane is on the board of Girl Scouts-Diamonds of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas, and serves on the Little Rock Sister Cities Commission. She is a graduate of the Greater Little Rock Class XXX and Leadership Arkansas Class XII.
Martin, now CEO of Allegiance Consulting Group in Little Rock, said Massana-Crane was an “excellent” choice to head the division.
In to mid-2000s, Martin judged a state business plan competition, and Harding’s entry impressed him. “The plan was impressive. The biographies of the team were included and I reviewed them as well. Esperanza was completing her MBA.” He found her to be impressive, too, and reached out to friends who knew her as a volunteer at their nonprofit organization.
“I knew they would be honest in their feedback,” Martin said on Friday. “I reached out to them and they could not have been more positive. We contacted her university adviser to see if she had an interest in interviewing. … Arkansas is fortunate to have her working for all of us.”
In a news release, Massana-Crane said she was honored to build on Brown’s legacy, “elevating our women and minority-owned businesses and the significant role they play in our diverse economy.”
Her top goal is to “create opportunity,” she said, echoing the theme of her 2018 Arkansas Business interview: “Our work benefits other people,” she said. “It’s very touching to realize that you’re able to help provide jobs and change lives.”