Economic developers to promote the diversity of suppliers


Large organizations often source their products through a single large supplier contract rather than several small ones, but an event this month will encourage buyers to give smaller, various owner-owned businesses in the West a chance. from Michigan.

The Grand Sourcing Summit is a June 29 virtual event that will seek to connect female-owned, veteran and people of color Western Michigan suppliers with purchasing organizations to discuss sourcing opportunities. . It is hosted / sponsored by Pure Michigan Business Connect (PMBC), Grand Rapids Area Revitalization Task Force, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Local First, The Right Place and Chamber of Commerce Hispanic from West Michigan.

The event will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will include an overview of the resources available to help grow the business, followed by one-on-one buyer-supplier virtual meetings. Although the deadline to register for one-on-one meetings has passed, individuals and businesses can still register on to attend the resource overview and learn more about how to win supplier contracts.

The idea for the event arose out of discussions by the Mayor’s Revitalization Task Force, of which all Grand Sourcing organizers are members except PMBC. Discussions focused on how to be more intentional as a community to support local and diverse businesses. Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss then highlighted the topic in her State of the City address earlier this year.

Participating buyers at the summit will include Butterball Farms, City of Grand Rapids, Consumers Energy, DTE, Gordon Food Service, Grand Valley State University, Interurban Transit Partnership (aka The Rapid), Kellogg Company, OST, Rockford Construction, ASM Global (which manages DeVos Place and Van Andel Arena), Spectrum Health and Warner Norcross + Judd, and organizers are actively working to recruit more.

At the event, Joe Agostinelli, Executive Director of the Grand Rapids Area Revitalization Task Force, will provide an overview of the resources available, and Mayor Bliss will provide his comments. Then there will be two pre-one-on-one sessions – “Doing Business with DTE as a Small Business” and a panel discussion on “The Successful Buyer-Supplier Experience”. The panel will include a representative from a large buyer and a small supplier who have managed to figure out how to do business together.

Agostinelli said organizers hope the event attracts enough attendees to make it a regular resource for businesses in Western Michigan.

“MEDC has hosted a lot of these procurement summits, but we haven’t hosted one that’s hyper-local like this. The hope is that if we build it people will come and we will see some success with it, ”he said.

“During the pandemic, there was a strong push towards virtual shopping and online shopping, and many local businesses were able to pivot and change their business model to support this. But there were many who for some reason couldn’t or couldn’t figure out how to do it effectively. And so, as we reflect on the evolution of the economy, there is a need for intentionality around where we buy things and from whom we buy things. The hope is that this summit serves as a ‘kick off’ of this call to action in the community, that these large organizations get involved in it, and we should all really be supporting this at our own individual buying level and / or. if we own businesses or run organizations that buy a lot of goods and services, to think about how we can do it differently to support the local economy.

As this is the first event of its kind in West Michigan, Agostinelli said the Grand Rapids Chamber and Michigan Small Business Development Center held pre-event webinars to help vendors prepare their pitch before they go. one-on-one with buyers and to Help buyer representatives understand the value of splitting larger contracts into a series of smaller contracts with minority-owned businesses.

“I hope that the effectiveness of this (event) will be measured by the number of new contracts created because of it,” Agostinelli said.

Tim Mroz, vice president of strategic initiatives at The Right Place, said his organization has promoted the Grand Sourcing Summit to its network.

“The Right Place has worked for over 35 years with many manufacturers in West Michigan – we have 1,000, 2,000 manufacturers in the area who are always interested in doing more business with local suppliers,” said Mroz. “So whenever we have the opportunity to match local buyers with local suppliers… this is one of those events. “

He added that The Right Place last year managed three small business assistance grant programs that have benefited a large number of women-owned, veteran and minority-owned businesses, and the organization made sure to promote the opportunity of the Grand Sourcing Summit to these companies, for “open doors that were not there in the past.

Mroz said that from a buyer’s perspective it is certainly easier to deal with fewer and larger suppliers who can meet most of your organization’s procurement needs, but this approach also limits the innovation and the possibility of forming new relationships.

“The other thing is that many manufacturers in West Michigan are starting to receive mandates from their upstream supply chain customers regarding the need, or requirement, to work more with companies owned by companies. minorities, women and veterans “as part of a commitment to corporate social responsibility,” Mroz said.

“In many ways, the easiest way to do that is to start breaking up some of these bigger contracts into smaller subcontracts and opening them up to more (diverse) companies. The challenge is that many of these small businesses currently lack the sophistication to bid on larger projects, in the tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars. And so that’s where MEDC and the city and The Right Place and the Chambers and a lot of these other organizations in West Michigan can come alongside these little businesses and provide that training, to make sure that they put their best cheeky footing. “

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