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At its first annual Diversity & Inclusion Summit, ABC brought together business owners, industry executives and ABC members from across the country to network and to explore why supplier diversity is key to the growth and the future of the construction industry. With more than 100 people in attendance, the summit sparked an open and honest conversation about why it’s important to embrace a diverse business culture and the value it provides businesses and the community.

The summit kicked-off with a message from ABC’s National Chair Pamela Volm of Annapolis Contracting, Annapolis, Md., who gave a history of ABC and shared her experience of running a business as a woman. Lenee Koch, chair of ABC’s Diversity Committee then welcomed keynote speaker Scott Vowels, manager of Apple’s Supplier Diversity Program and author of “Don’t be Afraid to Call the Baby Ugly,” to the stage.

In his portion of the summit, Vowels discussed the business case for implementing supplier diversity and changing the culture through meaningful dialogue and impactful data. His presentation showed that Minority- and Women-owned businesses are responsible for 2.3 million jobs in the United States, $138 billion in salaries and benefits, and have a $401 billion impact on the sales of goods or services, all through direct, indirect and induced relationships. 

Next, Craig Reed, director of global sourcing and logistics for DuPont, shared his top 10 tips for doing business with DuPont which highlighted the importance of being able to articulate a company's value proposition, knowing what differentiates it from everyone else and the importance of letting others know about the company's successes. 

During the summit’s panel discussion, ABC welcomed Carl Crowe, vice president of Walmart Construction; Patricia Bonilla president of Lunacon Construction Group; and Charles Eaton, director of corporate supplier diversity for Hensel Phelps. The group discussed best practices for reaching out to and working with diverse suppliers from the perspective of the owner, the general contractor, and the minority-owned business.

A few key takeaways and tips for diverse suppliers from the panel include:

  • You have to spend the money you make on hiring people in order to grow.
  • Supporting diverse suppliers is an investment in not just the company, but the community.
  • Supplier diversity is about planting seeds to fix a long-term issue and making changes that matter for our society.
  • Don’t oversell and don’t overpromise. Find your niche and sell what you do. 
  • Even if minority- and women-owned businesses are given opportunities, they have to be able to deliver.
The summit was rounded out with a session from Reginald Layton, vice president of supplier diversity and supply chain sustainability for Johnson Controls, who discussed the process behind procuring small and diverse suppliers for a large corporation, and how supplier diversity expands revenue and strengthens the supply chain.

ABC CEO Mike Bellaman concluded the summit with remarks on ABC’s commitment to being a world-class construction association and resource for the underserved markets and companies within the construction industry.

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