By Barney Blakeney
After 12 years in the position, Friday, June 22 was Theron Snype’s last day as director of the Charleston Minority Business Enterprise Office. For more than a decade, Snype served as the face of minority business as it related to the city, proving himself a capable advocate in an environment of burgeoning development and struggling small and minority owned businesses.
Snype was the fourth director to head the office established by former Mayor Joseph Riley Jr. Unprecedented as the only municipally operated minority business advocates regionally, the office received critical acceptance prior to Snype’s leadership. His predecessor, Barrett Tolbert, established its credibility as a resource for small and minority businesses. Snype, who continued that credibility, gave it personality.
Snype cut his professional teeth in the radio business. His uncle, the late Cliff Graham, was Charleston’s first African American television personality. Snype’s first job was sweeping floors at the WQSN radio station in downtown Charleston. After graduating from Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Snype returned to Charleston in 1973 to begin working at the WPAL radio station as a part time news announcer.
By 1987, he had worked his way up to program director and ultimately station manager.
As radio stations began to switch from AM frequencies to FM frequencies, Snype was asked to help start WDPN, a Columbia radio station which has evolved into WLXC KISS-103.1. Among the owners were the Rev. I.D. Newman, South Carolina’s first Black state senator since Reconstruction. The experience gave him exposure in both business development and politics, Snype said. Via numerous years as team leader for Community Involvement at Cummins Engines and a stint on the board of directors for the Charleston Trident Urban League, Snype brought the skills he learned to his position as Charleston MBE Office director.
Charleston’s MBE Office, since its inception, has been plagued by limited resources. And since the office does not award contracts, “The best thing I could do for our clients was to show them how to get help,” Snype said of his tenure with the office. “There are a lot more resources out there now for small and minority businesses whether they are starting out or in trouble. Among the most significant things we did were referrals and advocacy – helping to change the culture of doing business with disadvantaged businesses.”
With less than $200 million in its annual budget, the City of Charleston doesn’t have the capacity to provide direct financial resources to those businesses, Snype said. Still the office secured more than 30 percent of the $110 million in construction contracts for the Gaillard Auditorium redevelopment project for small and minority businesses, he said. Private development offers minority businesses the most potential, Snype said.
As robust development continues in the city, opportunities for the MBE office to be a resource for minority business is good, Snype said. In addition to construction opportunities, digital commerce is another avenue that is available to minority entrepreneurs.
Towards that end. Snype said he’s not done. “I want to continue using my expertise to do some things to support minority businesses. I’d rather be a resource than a couch potato,” he said.