State Rep. Dwight Evans yesterday helped a black business group celebrate its 15th anniversary by calling for creation of wealth and opportunity.

"You will not transform communities if you do not create wealth," Evans told about 325 people in the ballroom of the Park Hyatt Philadelphia at the Bellevue.

Evans, a Democrat who has represented West Oak Lane in the Legislature for 28 years, was the keynote speaker at the annual member-appreciation luncheon of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Pennsylvania, New Jersey & Delaware.

"If you make things better in society, you will have a better customer," he said. "You change the environment, you change the behavior. I couldn't tell you this 28 years ago."

Leadership must come first, Evans said. Then, people must take advantage of opportunity, he said. Using his political clout, Evans said, he has been able to create opportunity.

"If you understand how to use the political process, the political process can be a catalyst to economic opportunity and create economic wealth," he said.

Delilah Winder, chairwoman of the chamber's board, praised both Evans and Mayor Nutter for their support of the black business community.

"It is good to know that we're in an environment today where we have a Dwight Evans and a Michael Nutter working together and in partnership for supporting our businesses," Winder said.

Nutter met with the board yesterday morning to discuss the chamber's growth, said Winder, 56, of Queen Village.

Chamber members weren't the only attendees at the luncheon.

Melanie Lassiter, community-relations manager of Peco, a corporate partner of the chamber, said that the two organizations have collaborated on numerous projects throughout the years.

"They've had a lot of growth, a lot of partnerships, a lot of successes," said Lassiter, 34, of Glassboro. "This is a great opportunity to see what lessons have been learned and take those lessons and develop them." *