By Monica Stavish Skaggs
All eyes will be on New Orleans, Louisiana, when the Southern Region Minority Supplier Development Council hosts the 2022 National Minority Supplier Development Council Inc. 50th Anniversary Annual Conference and Exchange Oct. 30 - Nov. 2.
This year’s conference theme — “It’s Time to Disrupt Our Own Status Quo” — is nothing new to NMSDC, which has served as an advocate for minority businesses for 50 years. The Council connects minority-owned and -controlled businesses with corporate members that represent many of the nation’s largest public and privately owned companies.
“We’re excited about being host to this year’s NMSDC conference,” said Alvin-o Williams, president and CEO, SRMSDC. “We knew several years ago that we would be the host, but with the pandemic in 2020, we weren’t sure when we would return to a live, in-person conference. It takes a lot of people and preparation to plan a national conference of this size, and there’s no better city than New Orleans to celebrate NMSDC’s 50th anniversary.”
Staff with SRMSDC and the national council have worked closely to identify MBE suppliers, venues, schools and volunteers to help make the celebration spectacular.
“What is going to make this conference different from other national conferences? First, it will be in New Orleans. Second, it will be in New Orleans, and third, it will be in New Orleans! New Orleans’ rich culture and people make this an ideal city to celebrate 50 years,” Williams said.
The conference will feature sessions and workshops on the trajectory of global exports/imports on the U.S. supply chain, government resources for minority businesses, a discussion with former NMSDC presidents and other topics. Speakers include Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Don Cravins Jr., who was recently named the first-ever under secretary of commerce for minority business development for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency.
Attendees will have access to hundreds of exhibitors at the Exchange tradeshow, a concert, awards gala and New Orleans tourist attractions. For more information, please visit NMSDC Conference.
Creating wealth parity
SRMSDC was launched in 1973 as the Louisiana Minority Business Council in New Orleans, one year after NMSDC was created. The organization was renamed SRMSDC when it merged with two councils that were responsible for Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama. Today, SRMDSC’s footprint covers those three southern states and Louisiana.
Today, SRMSDC works with nearly 1,000 minority businesses in the Gulf South region. Members represent seven distinct industries — manufacturing, construction, professional services, distribution, brokering/agencies, service and contracting.
SRMSDC was formed as the United States was in transition following the start of the civil rights movement and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., just a few years earlier. Yet, challenges remain.
“There is a wealth inequity that is invisible to many but impacts where we all live, work and play,” Williams said. “Our region amplifies this [inequity] because some states have race- and gender-neutral policies. So, although there is a recognized need to support targeted businesses — like women and ethnic minority business owners — we continue to work within these policy constraints.”
The Council’s mission is to create wealth parity by inspiring business opportunities and assisting companies from every angle. In 2017, it initiated two new business designations — registered and listed — for companies that aren’t quite ready for the national certification process. Companies that fall into these two categories include ethnic minority artists, musicians and business-to-consumer businesses.
“These businesses aren’t interested in government or corporate contracting. Instead, they are looking to expand by aligning with consumers who are being intentional with their spending,” Williams said. “To gain access to new customers who are noncorporate, we created these two new business designations to drive more MBE-to-MBE business.”
Power of the affiliates
NMSDC is supported by 23 regional affiliates nationwide, which are critical to supporting more than 15,000 certified MBEs to reach their full potential with more than 1,500 corporate members. Each regional affiliate works within its designated local fields across the country, with headquarters located in 21 states and Puerto Rico.
Williams said this year’s conference theme recognizes the collective strength of NMSDC’s affiliates, which carry out the national Council’s mission with a daily dedication to aiding its current MBEs and growing its network of both MBEs and corporate members.
The combined cooperation, collaboration and communication among the regional affiliates has helped NMSDC establish itself as a recognized and trusted organization throughout America’s top public and privately-owned companies, universities, hospitals and other buying institutions. The “Power of the Affiliates” theme celebrates and recognizes these efforts for the last 50 years in making NMSDC what it is today.
Supply Chain Equity Management
After five decades, William said, it is vital that an established organization continue to seek ways to be innovative and change with the times.
“The COVID pandemic has shown us that supply chains are integral to our economy. A diverse supply chain is vital to a business’ continued success when unforeseen events disrupt business as usual,” Williams said. “In keeping with SRMSDC’s mission to create wealth parity for ethnic minority business owners and their communities, we are preparing to support a new business strategy called Supply Chain Equity Management [SCEM]
SCEM, he said, is an innovative systemic business process that measures, manages and markets the impact of dollars spent with diverse businesses instead of just measuring the number of dollars spent or the cost savings derived from sourcing business from diverse companies.
Williams believes the traditional measures of success following the linear approach to supplier diversity haven’t evolved and will be challenged with tomorrow’s business models involving circularity.
“It’s no secret we are moving closer to a circular economy with climate change and more sustainable business practices,” he said. “In this new economy, we all [corporations, diverse businesses and non-diverse businesses] will must monitor how our behaviors impact not only income and profitability but also how our spending habits and resource allocations impact people, communities and our planet.”
As it looks ahead, the Council plans to leverage nearly 50 years of experience in advocacy and ethnic minority business development to help close the racial wealth gap, Williams said.
To learn more about SRMSDC, visit srmsdc.org.