Kent State’s Supplier Diversity Initiative Strengthens Relationships
June 17, 2009 · Print This Article
By Lindsay Kuntzman
Since Kent State’s Supplier Diversity initiative began in 2005, it has experienced steady growth in the use of minority and women-owned and economically disadvantaged businesses.
In 2003, after Dr. Steve O. Michael, vice provost for diversity and academic initiatives, learned that Kent State didn’t spend significant amounts of its budget with minority and women-owned businesses, he set about developing a university-wide task force to create a supplier diversity program.
Michael and Dr. David Creamer, the former senior vice president for administration, led the task force in reviewing business plans and literature and studying the already-existing supplier diversity program at Case Western Reserve University.
In 2005 the program was developed and implemented under then-President Carol Cartwright. A year later, when Dr. Lester Lefton replaced Cartwright, he fully supported the supplier diversity program, which ensures an active and full participation of historically disadvantaged, economically and socially underutilized businesses within the university’s geographic region and beyond.
Today, the Supplier Diversity Advisory Board, composed of community business leaders and entrepreneurs, provides oversight for the program. Michael says the university also retains the services of Rachel Daniel, the president of Synergy International Ltd. Inc., to provide consulting services and manage the board.
For diverse suppliers, the university’s purchasing system can pose a challenge.
“With a decentralized purchasing system we need to keep our message in front of the staff,” John Flasco, director of procurement, says. “As part of our Supplier Diversity initiative we are often asked to speak with different departments to discuss the program.”
Besides stressing spending more with minority vendors to university departments, the program and university has also increased outreach efforts. Janet Vacula, senior purchasing agent and Supplier Diversity champion, says the outreach programs, such as sponsoring workshops and participating in trade shows, help foster relationships between the university and diverse suppliers.
Another form of outreach, Partners First, is sponsored by the Northern Ohio Minority Business Council. In Partners First, an organization mentors a start-up minority business for two years. Flasco says Kent State has mentored a Hispanic-owned business for the last two years.
As the initiative continues to grow and develop, its affect on the community will also grow. Flasco says the program has a positive impact on the Akron, Canton and Cleveland communities.
“The initiative helps advance the economic well-being of the area,” he says. “It also helps the community through its outreach and development.”
Interested suppliers may visit www.kent.edu/procurement/welcomesupplierdiversity.cfm for more information.