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Expert Panel Discussion Highlights Supplier Diversity Programs

By Colin McEvoy on October 21, 2016

LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham (right) introducing the "Why Supplier Diversity?" panelists, including (left to right) Myneca Ojo, George Ehrgott, and Geri Swift.

LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham (right) introducing the “Why Supplier Diversity?” panelists, including (left to right) Myneca Ojo, George Ehrgott, and Geri Swift.

A panel of experts gathered at the Olympus Corporation of the Americas headquarters in Upper Saucon Township this week to discuss the importance of supplier diversity programs, which encourage the use of minority-, women- and veteran-owned companies in the procurement of goods and services.

The Oct. 20 event, entitled “Why Supplier Diversity?”, included such panelists as George Ehrgott, Senior Manager, Strategic Sourcing & Sustainability at Communications Test Design Inc. (CTDI); David Kern, procurement analyst with the Tobyhanna Army Depot; Myneca Ojo, Director, Diversity & Inclusion at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission; Geri Swift, President of the Women’s Business Enterprise Council PA-DE-sNJ.

CTDI is a engineering, repair and logistics company that works with the communications industry, with such customers as AT&T, Cisco, Comcast, Google, and Verizon. Ehrgott said the firm has had a supplier diversity program since 1995, and it has resulted in improved services, better sourcing and costing, and stronger relationships with its customers.

“And yet we’re still one of the few prime suppliers to our industry that does this,” he  said. “I’m surprised that more of my colleagues and competitors don’t use supplier diversity to improve their business and relationships with their customers.”

Ehrgott said he believes other companies have not implemented supplier diversity programs because they feel they will ultimately get the business anyway. But he said having that program in place has been very beneficial, allowing him to receive requests for information (RFI) and requests for quotations (RFQ) automatically.

The panel discussion was hosted by the Local Sourcing & Business Diversity Council of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) and the Women’s Business Enterprise Council PA-DE-sNJ.

The Women’s Business Enterprise Council PA-DE-sNJ certifies women-owned businesses and assists corporations in creating and building world-class supplier diversity programs, Swift said.

The council provides Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) certification, as well as educational, networking, procurement-related, and informational programs and services that foster growth and business opportunities between women-owned businesses and purchasing entities, including major corporations and government agencies, she said.

“Our goal is to work to get out into the different areas to see potential corporations that have supplier diversity programs or want them, so we can work with them to reach and achieve their supplier diversity goals,” Swift said.

Ojo said the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission decided to establish a supplier diversity program after implementing a disparity study in 2010, which resulted in the creation of a formal Department of Diversity and Inclusion.

“There has always been an emphasis to have diversity and inclusion within the organization, because as a public entity, we do have a responsibility to ensure we are bringing everyone to the table as it relates to supplies and contracting opportunities,” Ojo said. “We want to ensure the opportunities that we have are serving the community.”

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission does about $772 million a year in procurement, primarily construction and engineering, Ojo said.

The Local Sourcing & Business Diversity Council of LVEDC helps facilitate purchasing arrangements between local Lehigh Valley companies and larger buyers for products and services.

The Council also organizes the bi-annual Meet the Buyers Expo, and supports the Lehigh Valley small business community through education, training, networking and driving awareness regarding existing business support services available to grow and sustain businesses.

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