In 1965, Patricia A. Krone was appalled by the widespread destruction of homes and businesses during the violent race riots in the Watts section of Los Angeles.
“The riots happened because people in the mainstream ignored minorities,” said Krone, 55, a resident of Newport Beach. “A community committed suicide because the different ethnic groups didn’t realize there was value in helping each other.”
That realization ultimately served as the inspiration for Krone’s work as a co-founder of the Orange County Minority Business Council, a nonprofit group created in March, 1987.
On Thursday, Krone was recognized as minority business advocate of the year by the U.S. Small Business Administration for her efforts on behalf of the council.
Krone is one of eight winners chosen for their advocacy of small business in a national competition. Advocates are “individuals who have used their professional expertise and personal talents to further the understanding and awareness of small business in their community,” said Michael Howland, acting regional SBA director in San Francisco.
The eight people were picked from a pool of district winners by a panel of business, industrial and government leaders. Among the winners are three other Californians: Morris Van Asperen of Los Angeles, Joe Greenstreet of Marysville and Caryn Wiley of Westlake Village.
Krone helped organize the minority business council in her role as a community relations manager for Pacific Bell in Orange. Besides Krone, other PacBell executives and representatives of the Orange County Chamber of Commerce and the Orange County Human Relations Commission helped establish the organization.
The council is composed of chambers of commerce from the Latino, black, Vietnamese and Korean communities. It encourages members to cross cultural lines, promoting friendship and economic success.
Krone, who was on a business trip in San Francisco on Thursday, said in a telephone interview that her goal was to encourage communication and cooperation among ethnically diverse business people in Orange County.
And despite the accolades, Krone is still concerned that feelings of racial tension and competition among Orange County minorities might damage the county’s economic vitality.
“A community is healthy only when local businesses are strong,” she said.
Krone has also been a member of the county’s Human Relations Commission for the past 10 years. She was president of the Orange County Mental Health Assn. from 1981 to 1986. And she has worked with scores of other community interest groups.
But it was her work with the Minority Business Council that earned her the SBA recognition. The council sponsors seminars, speakers and social events that often cross cultural lines.
For example, she said that members of the Vietnamese community provided entertainment during a Korean harvest festival in October.
“We have to learn to be together,” she said, “before we can work together.”
Chuoc Vo-Ta, executive director of the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce in Orange County, said Krone encouraged merchants to appeal to customers from outside the Vietnamese community.
“She gives us advice,” he said. “She advises people that it’s time to get into the mainstream.”
James D. McClellan, chairman of the minority business council, said Krone has been an inspiration to the organization and the community.
She “lets people see there is a commonality of business objectives across all cultures,” he said. “And that sharing of ideas allows people to work together.”
SBA spokeswoman Sandy Sutton said the eight winners will be honored in May at a dinner in Washington.