it takes time to make money in banking. I can drill more wells, and hopefully I can hit one to make more money than being in the heavily regulated industry that is banking,” he says.
While oil and gas exploration and production will always be the bedrock of CAMAC’s operations, Lawal and his board members believe financial services will rapidly become an integral part of the organization. “He understands that in the African American community, the economic element is extremely important to everything we do. Politics is important, obviously, but so is economics,” says Brown. “So if you have an institution such as a bank that can serve the community, that’s a major contribution.”
DRILLING FOR NEW OPPORTUNITIES
Every business has its set of challenges, and CAMAC is no exception. Early in the company’s history, money was tight. After all, it can cost up to $20 million to drill an offshore well. If it comes up dry, that’s an expensive write-off. Today, the challenges involve human resources. Lawal says too few African Americans are interested in engineering, geological sciences, and petroleum economics or career opportunities within the energy sector. To that end, he established a $1 million endowment at Texas Southern University’s Jesse H. Jones School of Business for the Kase and Eileen Lawal Center for International Business Development. “The problem is the skills management-those that will manage and grow the business and will look at a program from an entrepreneurial point of view,” says Lawal. “Those are the kind of people who need to evolve. We need to train those people; they need to be mentored.”
When Lawal’s father allowed him to come to the United States in the early ’70s, it was under three conditions. One, he wasn’t allowed to move to a big city. Not a problem since Lawal had his heart set on suburban Atlanta. Two, he had to study medicine or engineering. He majored in the latter. The final condition was that he would return to Nigeria for good upon graduation. While Lawal hasn’t quite gotten around to that pledge, odds are his father wouldn’t complain. B
-Additional reporting by Tennille M. Robinson