State Senators Recognize Paul Mitchell and Diane E. Sumpter for Their Impact on South Carolina Business

Sen. Darrell Jackson Leads Effort to Recognize Prominent African American Business Owners and Entrepreneurs for their Statewide Economic Impact

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Columbia, SC—Last month, in a tribute culminating Black History Month and leading into Women’s History Month, the South Carolina Senate honored two prominent African American Columbia business owners and entrepreneurs, Paul Mitchell and Diane E. Sumpter, for their significant contributions to the Columbia business community and the economic development of our state. 

On February 28, 2024, members of the South Carolina Senate, led by Senator Darrell Jackson, recognized and honored Paul Mitchell, the Chairman of Optus Bank, for the positive impact his leadership has had on the bank and our state’s economic development.

Mitchell is a banking and paper industry executive whose business savvy and capital helped continue the legacy of South Carolina’s first African-American-owned bank, Victory Savings Bank.  In 2019, Optus Bank was renamed and re-introduced to the Midlands.  Since then, Optus Bank, an esteemed institution whose origins date back to 1921 when a group of visionary and courageous African American leaders founded Victory Savings Bank on the principle that all people should have access to the American Dream, has flourished in Columbia.  Under his astute guidance as board chairman, Optus Bank faithfully honors the vision of the bank’s founders by striving to balance the needs of their customers, communities, employees, and shareholders, unlike traditional financial institutions that only focus on maximizing shareholder profits.

A seasoned entrepreneur whose diverse professional background ranges from information technology to mill management, Mitchell has used his substantial business acumen to help Optus Bank achieve its goal of helping other businesses gain access to capital while achieving record profitability and growth for the bank in the process. 

In addition to leading Optus Bank, Mitchell continues to serve as the chief executive officer and managing partner of Columbia-based South Coast Paper, which he co-founded in 2000. Using his thirty-plus years in the paper industry, Mitchell has helped build South Coast Paper into an eighty-million-dollar company with locations in Alabama, New Jersey, Arkansas, and Mexico.

A native of Lower Richland County, Mitchell is from a family of successful entrepreneurs and trailblazers. Paul Mitchell is the nephew of the late Julius Murray. A trailblazer, Julius Murray was one of the military’s first African American recruiters in the Southeast. He was also the first African American Vice Chairman of Richland County Council who went on to serve in the South Carolina General Assembly. Mitchell is also the uncle of trailblazer Kimberly Clarice Aiken Cockerham, Miss South Carolina 1993, and Miss America 1994.  “I am from a large, caring family,” shared Mitchell.  “They instilled in us the tremendous belief that we could achieve anything if we worked hard enough . . . and they also imparted a sense of social accountability and community involvement,” said Mitchell.  

Senator Darrell Jackson said, “We are pleased to recognize Paul during Black History Month and grateful to him for using his entrepreneurial talents to assist other African Americans in South Carolina in achieving economic success and helping build sustainable employment in this nation and abroad.” Adds Jackson, “It is important to me to recognize our local heroes and sheroes.  It gives hope to the next generation.”

Shero, entrepreneur, and business owner Diane E. Sumpter was also honored, culminating Black History Month and providing an excellent segue into Women’s History Month.  Sumpter, a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School and the University of South Carolina, is the Founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer of DESA, Inc.

DESA, Inc., is a thirty-eight-year-old business services firm in Columbia, South Carolina. For the duration of its existence, DESA has served minority-owned businesses, including more than thirty years as the operator of the United States Department of Commerce’s South Carolina Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Center.   Under her leadership, DESA remains one of the longest-running operators of an MBDA Business Center. Her primary focus areas are helping minority-owned firms scale up and assisting them in building capacity, pivoting, solidifying business operations, and taking advantage of technological advances.  She leads a team of employees who share her vision and commitment to the development and success of minority-owned businesses.

In fact, Diane Sumpter and the MBDA were instrumental in creating an alliance of investors to invest in and work with South Carolina Community Bank (formerly Victory Savings Bank) in 1999.  This alliance helped to create stability and growth, paving its transformation into Optus Bank almost twenty years later.

She has spent over forty years working as a catalyst for change in South Carolina and the nation. As a business leader, she has concentrated on economic development while strategizing and leading advocacy efforts for small, minority, and women-owned businesses. As a community activist, she has dedicated time and resources to the causes of educational advancement and cultural awareness.

Diane E. Sumpter has been honored locally and nationally for her talent and leadership. In 2023, she received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from South Carolina State University and the Abe Venable Legacy Award for Lifetime Achievement from the US MBDA.

The proud mother of three children, who have given her the joy of four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, Diane Sumpter currently sits on the boards of Midlands Technical College and Forest Lake Educational Foundation (Richland School District Two).   Ms. Sumpter is a tremendous proponent of public education and the arts.  “It is our responsibility to take care of our children and our community of children and expose them all, giving them every advantage we can.  That is our utmost responsibility,” proclaims Sumpter.  “Everyone cannot afford private schools, so we must take care of the educational system where the majority is.  We must support public education,” adds Sumpter.  “It’s our job to make sure that our children are prepared for the opportunities that have been created.” 

The MinorityEye is a news and information aggregator that curates the voices, thoughts and perspectives of minority writers, bloggers, authors, reporters, columnists, pundits, consultants and thought leaders as well as those who write about minorities and issues that impact people and communities of color.

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