WDM Chamber Announces 2023 Recipient of the Mel Essex Award

Athene Black & Brown Business Summit
WEST DES MONES, IA (THURSDAY April 6, 2023) – The West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce (WDM Chamber) has announced Perlla Deluca, Owner and CEO of Southeast Contractors and President of the Iowa School of Construction, as the recipient of the 2023 Mel Essex Award. Deluca will be celebrated at the third annual Athene Black & Brown Business Summit (The Summit) presented by Wells Fargo. The event is held at the corporate headquarters of Athene at 7700 Mills Civic Pkwy, West Des Moines, Iowa on April 20-21.

“I am so humbled and honored to be chosen for this award,” said Deluca. “If you have a dream and work hard, the opportunity is here for everyone.”
Deluca is creating an inclusive school that is focused around helping young women become proficient in the construction trades. She is planning to reopen the former elementary school at 1801 McKinley Ave. and create the new Iowa School of Construction. At the school students will take a 12-week course in lessons including carpentry, welding, masonry, power tools and other machinery.
“When women support each other,” Deluca said, “Incredible things can happen.”

The Mel Essex Award was created to honor business and Iowa community champion Mel Essex. This award was established to recognize honorees for high standards of business ethics and heart for inspiring and encouraging aspiring others to fulfill their dreams of securing economic success. Since 2021, The Summit has been recognizing these winners. Past award recipients include 2021: Pernell Cezar Jr. – BLK & Bold Specialty Beverages, 2022: Lu Spaine – Zumi Collection.

Deluca will be honored at The Summit celebration on April 21st from 2:00-3:00pm. Tickets to the celebration are available for $15. In addition to receiving the Mel Essex Award, Deluca will also serve as a panelist at the two-day conference. Those interested in attending The Summit can choose from a variety of ticket packages:
$45 – All-Sessions, Two-Day Pass
$25 – Thursday Sessions
$15 – Thursday Afternoon Pitch Competition
$35 – Friday Sessions
$15 – Friday Afternoon Celebration
$25 – All-Sessions Pass (Virtual)
Sponsors and partners of the Summit help to make this event possible and a portion of sponsor proceeds benefit the Pitch Competition, Presented by Bank of America, of which over the past two years $52,000 has been distributed to pitch winners. For the 2023 event, sponsors, partners, and supporters include in alphabetical order: African American Museum of Iowa, Alliant Energy, Athene, Bank of America, Bankers Trust, Belin McCormick, BrownWinick Law Firm, Buena Vista University Strategic Partnerships, Central College, Chase, City of West Des Moines, Cocoa Creative Agency, Delta Dental of Iowa, Des Moines Performing Arts Presents: Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, Des Moines University, EY, EZ Newswire, F&G, Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines, FORVIS, Graham Construction Company, Greater Des Moines Partnership, Hy-Vee, IMT Insurance, Iowa Economic Development Authority, Kiva Iowa, Known Labs, Kum & Go, Merchants Bonding Company, MidAmerican Energy Company, NCMIC, Principal Foundation, RDG, S&S Employment Partners, Sammons Financial Group, The Great Frame Up, Two Rivers Bank and Trust, ViClarity, Wellmark, Whitfield & Eddy Law, Women Lead Change, Wells Fargo, and West Des Moines Community Foundation.
To learn more and register visit: www.wdmchamber.org/BBBSummit
About the Athene Black & Brown Business Summit
The Athene Black & Brown Business Summit was created to elevate ethnic minorities and bring BIPOC businesses together to assist with connections building, programming, promotion, training, and resources to help their businesses grow and prosper. The third annual Athene Black & Brown Business Summit will bring from entrepreneurs to seasoned companies from around the country together in a hybrid setting at Athene in West Des Moines. The Summit includes a nonprofit fundraiser, a pitch competition, breakout sessions led by top experts, Mel Essex Award, a vendor showcase and more. The goal is to help advance the minority business community in the country and position Iowa as the best place in the nation to start and lead a minority business.

About the WDM Chamber of Commerce
The mission of the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce is to champion all things West Des Moines by strengthening our area companies, providing personalized resources, and attracting a top workforce to position WDM as the best suburban city in America to live, work, and play. A 2022 ACCE Chamber of the Year Finalist, the WDM Chamber produces programs and events for everyone. Learn more about the WDM Chamber and how to get involved at www.wdmchamber.org.

About Athene
Athene, through its subsidiaries, is a leading financial services company specializing in retirement services with total assets of $246 billion as of December 31, 2022 and operations in the United States, Bermuda, and Canada. Athene specializes in helping its customers achieve financial security and is a solutions provider to institutions. Founded in 2009, Athene is Driven to Do More for our policyholders, business partners, shareholders, and the communities in which we work and live. For more information, please visit www.athene.com.

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