By Monica Stavish Skaggs
As it marks 50 years of service, the Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council is looking ahead to meeting more goals in the coming decades. The Council’s mandate is to serve as an advocate for minority businesses and help corporations establish strong supplier diversity programs.
Since the Council’s formation in 1972, the spotlight has been on unity. OMSDC was formed with the merger of several National Minority Supplier Development Council Inc.-affiliated organizations. The aim has been to organize individuals who were accustomed to working within a city and get them to think in a statewide fashion.
“We’ve got to bring together all of OMSDC into an organization that has one mind and one purpose,” said George R. Simms, president and CEO. “We’ve got to make a statewide imprint, but also keep regions alive. If you’re not careful, people will feel disenfranchised.
“That shifts to what we’re doing now and, in the future,” he continued. “One key way to bring people together is to have a goal that’s bigger than the individual. And we’ve got to partner with other members of the minority business ecosystem to make sure we’re giving MBEs everything they need to succeed.”
"It’s not about changing one mindset over another, but realizing the state is a network of groups working toward one goal," said Aaron G. Powell Jr., director of marketing and public relations.
“As OMSDC was formed statewide, we saw the need for regional connection,” Powell said. “Externally, now you’ve got a larger view of what the organization is, and we’re working as a state organization as well. Some members were in Cleveland and Cincinnati, and we had to help them understand that building up one another helps.”
The Council is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization that provides a direct link between MBEs and more than 70 corporate members. It certifies minority businesses, provides MBEs with access to procurement opportunities and helps corporations develop and maintain effective corporate supplier diversity programs.
Each year, Ohio MSDC’s corporate members spend more than $6 billion with MBEs certified by the council.
Numerous historic minority business advancements have occurred since OMSDC was founded. In 1972, the first Survey of Minority-Owned Business Enterprises was published by the U.S. Census Bureau. In 1974, the Columbus Area Business Resource Center was created to help economically disadvantaged individuals create businesses.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan gave the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Small Business Administration broad authority to oversee the establishment of federal minority business enterprise programs. In 1989, the Columbus Area Business Resource Center became the Columbus Regional Minority Supplier Business Council. In 1995, Joan Parrott-Fonseca became the first woman to serve as national director of the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency.
As for OMSDC’s history, in 2002, Dayton Minority Supplier Development Council, Columbus Regional Minority Supplier Business Council and Cincinnati Minority Supplier Development Council merged, becoming South Central Ohio Minority Business Council. Six years later, the council was renamed South Central Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council to align its identity to NMSDC.
In 2013, South Central Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council and Northern Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council merged to form OMSDC.
Given its storied history, it’s no wonder OMSDC is capping its 50th anniversary with even greater emphasis on creating opportunities for MBEs.
“OMSDC’s goal is to achieve $30 billion in MBE spend as a part of the NMSDC $1 trillion goal,” said Simms, who previously served as the council’s chief operating officer and interim president and CEO before this year. “This five-fold increase will yield $9 billion in corporate savings and will be 5% of Ohio’s [gross domestic product].”
The $1 trillion goal is energized by calling it BHAG — pronounced bee hag — a concept in the book, “Built to Last” by Jim Collins, Simms said. BHAG stands for “Big Hairy Audacious Goal,” and serves as a robust way to stimulate progress.
“The goal is to double total MBE revenue every 7 years.”
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” Simms said. “That’s an African proverb. This is the crux of what we’re driving with BHAG. One thing I would say is you’ve heard people say, ‘it’s not personal, it’s just business.’ That’s a stupid term. I don’t know how to do that.”
Simms is the product of the challenging times of segregation and was raised in the lower 20 percentile of income in the United States.
“That’s why this work for me is business and personal. I know what people are living,” he said.
The Council is addressing ways to improve constituent satisfaction to best-in-class levels and increase its impact on the minority business ecosystem.
“We are one of the few Ohio organizations that actually have a statewide imprint. We’ve got to go and embrace other organizations that are like-minded and work with them,” Simms said. “Having an aspiration that’s bigger than us is important.”
There is also the “urgency of now,” he said. “There’s the great recession, COVID-19 and the Russian Ukraine invasion, which have had a tremendous effect on MBEs. A number of communities are hurting.
“When I fill up my gas tank, it’s close to $100, but for some in the minority community, that’s life-threatening,” Simms continued. “They have to think before they even do that. We’re acknowledging the past 50 years, but most importantly, we’re looking at how do we set the stage for the future.”
A corporate veteran who worked at Proctor & Gamble Co. for 30 years, Simms has an insider view of how companies operate.
“One thing that is clear is that when companies go out for bids, minority businesses have trouble getting in the door,” Simms said. “We’re asking companies to indicate what they will need in 12 to 36 months. It’s doable. I’ve worked in research and development, and they look five to 10 years in advance. The data is out there, and we want to make sure it’s available to minorities.”
He encourages MBEs to consider “what differences they want to make in the world and in the lives of others and to really understand the markets they are in, and then become the best at meeting that need. Anybody who is in business has to focus on being the best in the business.”
To celebrate its 50-year milestone, OMSDC held a Business Opportunity Expo with training and development workshops. Other events include the annual awards gala on Nov. 18, 2022, which will celebrate the past, present and future.
To learn more about the Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council, visit ohiomsdc.org.
To learn more about Ohio MSDC's CEO George Simms, see https://mbnusa.biz/detail/george-simms-goal-is-eliminating-economic-injustice.
Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council OMSDC George R. Simms MBE Aaron G. Powell Jr U.S. Census Bureau Survey of Minority-Owned Business Enterprises U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Small Business Administration U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency Dayton Minority Supplier Development Council Columbus Regional Minority Supplier Business Council Cincinnati Minority Supplier Development Council NMSDC Jim Collins BHAG