Business Opportunity Fair links corporations with small businesses

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President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Minority Supplier Development Council for approximately 12 months, Joset B. Wright looks forward to taking the 39-year-old organization to the next level. Inheriting the Council on a strong foundation from the previous leadership of Harriet Michel, Wright said she is excited about what is ahead for the organization.

ReadyToNetwork
READY TO NETWORK—NMSDC president Joset Wright and WPMSDC president and CEO Alexander Nichlos, center, and WPMSDC representatives cut the ribbon kicking off the 35th Annual Business Opportunity Fair. (Photos by Diane I. Daniels)

In Pittsburgh helping the Western Pennsylvania Minority Supplier Development Council embark upon their 35th Business Opportunity Fair, Wright served as the luncheon keynote speaker. Tommy Johnson, vice president government affairs for CONSOL Energy, Inc. was the kick-off breakfast speaker. WPMSDC is an affiliate of the National Minority Supplier Development Council.

The theme of this year’s fair, “The Power of Diversity and the Energy it Creates!” provided the opportunity for minority business enterprises to meet top corporate and government buyers and vice versa. “This year’s opportunity fair was an occasion for corporate executives, buyers from local, state, federal government agencies, and minority business owners to embrace the new and exciting changes to western Pennsylvania through the energy industry,” explained Alexander Nicholas Jr. president and CEO of WPMSDC. “Turning contacts into contracts was our goal,”

Proud of the accomplishments of the NMSDC and planning to build on the successes of Michel, Wright indicated that under her leadership a strategic plan aiming to outline where the group is headed in the next five years is being prepared. “We need to know what tools are needed and we want the stake holders to be involved in the plan,” she said. Wright went on to say that she wants to understand what the issues are. She identified improving on their technology capabilities as one of the major improvements of the organization.

Wright said she has been involved with diversity suppliers since 1987. She is an attorney and former procurement executive with a broad range of professional experience in the corporate and private sectors. She had a 13-year career in the telecommunications industry and has a bachelor’s degree from Dennison University and a juries’ doctorate degree from Georgetown University Law School.

As vice president, government relations of CONSOL Energy, Johnson is affiliated with the leading diversified fuel producer in the Appalachian Basin. They are reported to mine more high-quality bituminous coal than any other U.S. producer. And, has more than six decades of coal reserves, ensuring that the valuable natural resource will be available to provide energy to the nation. They also are the leading natural gas producer in the eastern United States. “Opportunities in the energy industry are exciting,” said Johnson. Citing Marcellus Shale as the game changer he said Pittsburgh and the region is a diverse natural gas resource base. “Pittsburgh is the new energy city with 50 percent of the nation’s energy.” CONSOL Energy, a high-BTU bituminous coal and natural gas company has been around since 1860.

Other participants sharing in the breakfast and lunch events were Chairperson of the WPMSDC Board of Directors; Gary Evans, senior vice president, Supply Chain Management of the PNC Financial Service Group. He provided the welcome. Executive Pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church, Rev. Mark Tooks, offered the invocation and President and CEO of the WPMSDC, Nichols, introduced the emcees. Former Pittsburgh Steeler and current, Steelers Analyst for KDKA-TV Channel 2, Edmund Nelson, served as emcee for the breakfast and luncheon. Vice-Chairperson of the WPMSDC Board of Directors and Manager, Emerging Alliances and Shared Business Services of Highmark rallied the audience for the Fair and gave closing remarks.

More than 50 major corporations and public agencies participated as an exhibitor and approximately 300 attendees participated in the event throughout the day. Workshops took place titled; Best Practices: Corporate Supplier Diversity Programs, Connecting with: Opportunities for MBEs, How to Do Business with the Government, and The Entrepreneur’s Code of Conduct. The event ended with a closing reception.

Pleased with this year’s event, Nichols said, “Each year our Fair gets better. Minority business owners are already following up with the many leads and connections they received from the Opportunity Fair. “In today’s economy networking is most vital. We strive to provide such opportunities throughout the year.”

An affiliate of the National Minority Supplier Development Council, the group’s focus is to build upon business relationships between minority owned businesses, major corporations, and public agencies. Chartered since 1972, the NMSDC has been providing a direct link between corporate America and minority-owned businesses. With its national office based in New York, the Council is considered one of the country’s leading business membership organizations. NMSDC’s network includes 38 regional councils nationwide and has 3,500 corporate members. The regional councils certify and match more than 15,000 minority owned businesses (Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American) with member corporations in the market to purchase goods and services.

June 15 from 9-11:30 a.m. the WPMSDC is sponsoring a Minority Business Town Hall Meeting entitled “The State of Minority Business” at the Community College of Allegheny County Allegheny campus. Various WPMSDC community partners and corporate representatives are scheduled to share their approaches of survival in this economy and within this decade.

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