SMSDC's Karen Box sees need to help prepare MBEs for favorable supply chain outlook

Q: How would you describe 2021 versus 2020 for Southwest Minority Supplier Development Council and its minority business enterprises?

2020 was a year of upheaval which elevated supplier-diversity efforts in 2021. Our corporations stepped up and are coming to the table with more projects targeted to minority businesses. Many of our corporate members are dedicating spend dollars for minority small businesses that may have suffered through some of the injustice and discrimination, causing them not to prosper as much as others.

Championing the economic impact driven by minority business development – and its impact upon the community – is vital to the global economy. In response, corporations are looking for innovative ways to drive growth and minority business inclusion.

Q: What were the Council’s major accomplishments in 2021?

The Council experienced many accomplishments in 2021. It increased the number of certified MBEs, subscriptions, recertifications and local corporate members — along with continuing to assist minority-owned businesses with their growth and expansions. SMSDC held over 10 virtual events with participation from over 500 corporate members, certified MBEs and community partners.

These events included the very successful MBE “Idol” [see related story on Page 40] and major conferences such as Premier Face Time Expo and Diversity at the Border. Each of the events hosted offered a virtual platform for corporate members and suppliers to discuss upcoming business opportunities. SMSDC’s board of directors and staff worked diligently to advance its four pillarsCERTIFY - DEVELOP - CONNECT - ADVOCATE.

Q: What were the biggest challenges faced by your MBEs this year, and how did the Council help them meet these?

Encompassing southwest Texas — in addition to the states of Oklahoma and New Mexicothe Southwest Minority Supplier Development Council is committed to being focused and innovative in meeting the needs of its certified minority businesses and corporate members across a large and diverse geographic region. SMSDC still must be able to deliver exemplary services to both our certified MBEs and corporations in this extended service area.

With all SMSDC’s events being virtual in 2021, there was an increased response to all the events including our Premier Face Time EXPO and Diversity at the Border, which featured the successful Buyers’ Breakfast Roundtable℠.

The New Frontier MBE Showcase — created to advocate business opportunities for MBEs and develop relationships — featured business presentations from certified MBEs as well as our local corporate members and corporations. Our classes — Benchmarking PLUS+ and Capacity PLUS+ platforms — also saw an uptick in attendance. They are taught by Reginald Layton, board chair SMSDC, and vice president, supplier diversity and supply chain sustainability, Johnson Controls International PLC.

Sustainability remained high on our radar as our MBEs continued to find the impetus to engage in new strategic levels of impactful engagement. Many of our corporate members have projects that are not just for one geographic area.

They have projects that have a national scope or, perhaps, even a global scope. Our minority businesses must be able to perform nationally and globally, so learning how to scale their businesses is key. We even talk about teaming opportunities, joint venture opportunities and strategic alliance opportunities, so businesses learn these are key components of a strategy for success. Also, we are sharing with our MBEs the positive impact when they can do near-shore and onshore projects. Our corporate members are looking more for those companies to do business with.

Q: What do you see as the biggest opportunities for MBEs in 2022?

New, strong collaborative partnerships and promising opportunities are on the horizon to help our MBEs stimulate the economic ripples that promote business growth, job creation and drive market innovation. According to The Texas Tribune, “Biden’s infrastructure plan will set aside about $35 billion for Texas projects.”

The White House estimates that Texas will receive about $35.44 billion over five years for roads, bridges, pipes, ports, broadband access and other projects after federal lawmakers passed a long-anticipated infrastructure bill.

New partnerships [have formed] because corporate goals have changed not only due to COVID-19, but [also due] to supply-chain management complications being experienced around the globe. Teaming and joint ventures, access to capital, succession planning and mentor-protégé programs all contribute to the sustainability of an MBE.

Corporations are made more efficient and profitable by working with diverse suppliers. They bring new insights and capabilities to the table.

Q: What are the Council’s major goals for 2022?

Certifying more minority businesses in our service area to help corporations meet their supplier-diversity goals remains paramount in 2022. With the current disruption in supply-chain management being experienced around the globe, the marketplace has changed around us. We must continue to provide greater services — the resources that are required to meet demand.

Sustainability is high on our radar. Helping corporations ramp up their supplier-diversity goals and programs, succession planning, growth initiative programs and establishing new partnerships are integral components to MBEs scaling their businesses and getting to the next level to meet corporate customer needs.

Q: What is your outlook for MBEs for 2022?

We are excited about future conversations. The outlook appears to be favorable, and we need to help to prepare MBEs to take advantage of these upcoming opportunities — teaching MBEs how to use their certifications to highlight the focus on growing their businesses. [They must] not just work in their businesses; they [also] must work on their businesses.

Q: What’s your vision for the future of minority business development and supplier diversity?

Our vision is to create economic equality and growth for minority businesses. We do this by connecting certified minority businesses to our corporate members to increase procurement and enhance supplier diversity.

SMSDC’s dedicated board of directors and staff have mapped out a diverse array of networking events, educational seminars and connecting opportunities that will drive minority businesses’ development forward. We are excited about adding value, building relationships and better serving our stakeholders.

To learn more about SMSDC, visit


Southwest Minority Supplier Development Council minority businesses SMSDC minority-owned businesses SMSDC’s board of directors New Frontier MBE Showcase Reginald Layton Johnson Controls International PLC The Texas Tribune White House Karen Box

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