By M.V. Greene
Photos by Twice Media
The Houston Minority
Supplier Development Council (HMSDC) holds a spectacular gala every five years
to recognize and celebrate the efforts of stakeholders working together to
drive minority business inclusion. The organization’s recent black-tie event had
stirring speeches, delectable dishes, music, dancing and gracious award
The gala took on
additional significance as the nonprofit organization is celebrating its 50th
anniversary this year as a regional affiliate of National Minority Supplier
Development Council Inc. (NMSDC), the nation’s leading certification and
advocacy organization for the support of minority-owned businesses.
HMSDC President Ingrid M.
Robinson described the gala event — titled “Transforming Business Through
Growth and Innovation” — as an occasion for “elegance, networking and
recognition. We celebrated the achievements and enduring spirt of Houston’s
Richard A. Huebner — who
served HMSDC for 29 years, retired as president in 2015 and was succeeded by
Robinson — reflected on what makes the Houston Council special and unique in
marking its golden anniversary. He said it has been recognized seven times as
NMSDC Council of the Year. HMSDC also has been recognized in the past as
Houston’s Greatest Non-Profit Business Organization by the Greater Houston
Partnership, a business and civic organization that serves as a gathering place
for community-minded leaders promoting Houston’s growth and economic vitality.
“The energies, passion and
ingenuity of our staff and members led to these recognitions, and I remain so
proud of their accomplishments,” he said.
Carla Kneipp, senior vice
president, procurement, materials & logistics, at CenterPoint Energy Inc. —
a Houston-based electric transmission and distribution company and platinum
gala sponsor — announced to the delight of attendees that $14 billion in
economic activity is generated in the Houston region by HMSDC-certified
minority business enterprises (MBEs).
“The data underscores the
significance of the Council’s work empowering and supporting minority-owned
businesses through certification, education and advocacy,” she said. “Clearly,
MBEs make a vital financial impact, driving economic prosperity and fueling the
growth of our great city.”
Corporate member Exxon
Mobil Corp. was presented with HMSDC’s National Corporation of the Year award
for its longtime commitment to the work of the Council.
During the HMSDC EXPO —
held in October at ExxonMobil’s corporate campus in Spring, Texas — Robin
Hawkins, supplier diversity program manager at ExxonMobil, noted her company’s
August 2023 induction into Billion Dollar Roundtable Inc. — an exclusive group
of 39 U.S.-based corporations that promote supply chain diversity and minority
“It was a journey, but it
wasn’t really a journey to the Billion Dollar Roundtable,” she said. “It was a
journey to world-class supplier diversity, and the Billion Dollar Roundtable
was an accomplishment along the way.”
Advocating for minority
With 50 years under its
belt, HMSDC — like all organizations that advocate for supplier diversity — is
confronting headwinds that are threatening to tear at the fabric of support for
diverse businesses, Robinson said, noting reverberations from the June 2023
U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down affirmative action in college
admissions that adversaries are now seeking to extend to initiatives involving
diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
Advocating for sustained
minority business development will be high on the agenda of HMSDC going forward
to blunt those headwinds, she said.
“The business case is coming into play now for
diverse businesses,” Robinson said.
The theme of advocacy was
prevalent at the annual HMSDC EXPO that connects minority- and women- owned
suppliers with major corporations, prime suppliers, educational institutions
and Texas state government agencies seeking to buy products and services. The
EXPO, held in October, included a trade fair, networking sessions and panels
discussing trending issues in supply chain inclusion.
“The exposure, the
community and the inspiration have been great,” said Juan Pablo Osorio,
co-founder and CEO of Sugar Land, Texas-based Alpha Co. Marketing & Media —
a bilingual digital marketing firm — of the EXPO. “If you are a small business
or a medium-sized business looking to grow your network, be part of a business
community that cares about each other and is looking to help each other grow,
then you have to be here.”
Kyra Hardwick is founder and chief business development strategist of The Kyra Company LLC, a Houston business development solutions firm that provides business operations development, human resource solutions and organizational development infrastructure. She also had high praise for the EXPO, noting that “hands-down” her organization has grown over the years through developing more business with HMSDC corporate partners.
Robinson said four pillars
of HMSDC’s work are to certify, develop, connect and advocate, and that
advocacy now must be at the forefront.
“The other three pillars
get the most attention and focus, but everything that has happened since the
Supreme Court decision has brought more focus on the need for that advocacy
piece,” she said.
Citing a letter released
after the Supreme Court decision by conservative attorneys general in 13 states
questioning the legality of DEI programs — including supplier diversity —
Robinson said the threats are serious. “We have to be just as serious” in response,
In a direct challenge to
MBEs, she said organizations like HMSDC will also need diverse suppliers to
step up and be advocates as well. NMSDC regional affiliates like
HMSDC have been banding
together to develop national messaging around advocacy in support of MBEs and
are providing technology tools, resources and information, but need MBEs to
join in the effort.
“It is not just us as
regional councils to advocate for it, but you have to advocate for yourself,”
Robinson said. “If programs go away, what do minority businesses need to do to
advocate for themselves and make sure corporations and lawmakers remain committed?”
She praised corporate
partners of supplier-diversity programs for not “back-pedaling” in the face of
threats, but added, “We can’t sit on our laurels and expect other people to
fight the battle. Everybody is in this battle together.”
Huebner also noted the
gravity of the need for advocacy and what must occur. “We must turn the growing
governmental and societal attacks on diversity into an understanding of how
diversity makes everyone better,” he said. “We need to change the mantra from
creating a colorblind society to one that both recognizes and celebrates
differences for the many values they bring to the table.”
Thus, the Council’s next
50 years will be as vital to the development of MBEs in the Houston region and
nationally as the first 50, he said.
“The Council must remain
the recognized expert and leader in our space, so that it can continue to serve
as a credible adviser to members, governments and colleague organizations,” he
said. “HMSDC must remain innovative and relevant. HMSDC must ensure that MBE
development is represented at the table where decisions are made, and
To learn more about HMSDC,
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