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|SHARING THOUGHTS—Marsha Jones, Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of PNC Financial Service Group discusses PNCs diversity strategy. (Photos by Diane I. Daniels)
Pleased with the outcome of the fair, themed, 40 Years: Focused on Forging Connections, Alexander Nichols Jr. WPMDC president and CEO viewed it as one of the best shows in its history. “I’m thrilled. The feedback that I’m receiving from the corporations and MBEs is that their experience has been valuable.” He was also pleased that the attendance throughout the day was over 400 and a mix of 60 corporate and MBE exhibitors.
Mentioning that the theme was in honor of the Councils’ four decades, he pointed out that this year’s format was a throwback to 20 years ago. Instead of breakfast and lunch keynote speakers consisted of a morning panel and three seminars throughout the day including a working lunch. The Trade Show was also open all day and entertainment was provided by Caribbean Vibes.
“Throughout the years we have brought together the best of meetings, special events and minority businesses and corporations, simultaneously with the goal of turning contacts into contracts with this year being no different,” said Nichols.
Moderated by Bill Flanagan, host of the Sunday morning television show “Our Regions Business, the Regional Investor Panel” was the morning highlight. Marsha Jones, senior vice president and chief diversity officer of PNC Financial Service Group and Demetri Zervoudis, senior vice president and head of Global Production and Technology PET/PO of the Bayer Corporation served as panelists. The duo shared their thoughts and predictions for the future of western Pennsylvania and how minority supplier development fits.
Flanagan, also executive vice president-corporate relations for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development maintains that this is good times for the region. “The region is changing and will throughout the years,” he said. His research indicates that the Pittsburgh region has been performing better than the benchmark average in terms of job growth for the past four years. It also points out that wages are rising and unemployment continues to fall.
“Events like this are critical because they tap into resources and provide amazing opportunities. Companies like PNC and Bayer are major players and contributors to what are going on within the region,” he said.
Jones says PNC is a strong company that is now expanding into the southwest with locations in 19 states and the District of Columbia. “We are proud of our diversity and on a journey toward inclusion.” She stated that companies have to understand the culture of the area and need a diversity plan. She also pointed out that companies have to make people feel comfortable to locate here. “The universities play and important role. It is key to getting students to stay here,” she said recognizing that the regions’ cost of living is also a selling point.
With the Bayer bio-medics facility based in Pittsburgh, Zervoudis says they are excited about the growth of the region and that inclusion is important to them as a company.
Their concern is the difficulty in finding minority engineers. Their solution is their participation with the Pittsburgh Promise. “We are working to get the public schools involved,” he said. He also pointed out that Bayer is constantly looking for minority suppliers.
Kimberly Gill, news anchor for KDKA-TV Channel 2 served as the event emcee. The Newberry, S.C. native recently located to Pittsburgh from Ohio where she co-anchored the early morning news program, Good Morning Cleveland.
Other activities during the day were an energy seminar, a hard hat forum and a workshop on starting a supplier development program.
A leader in minority business development for 40 years, WPMSDCs’ mission is to advance business opportunities by certifying and connecting minority business enterprises to corporations and buying entities. Something Nichols says they have made great strides in providing for Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American businesses of all sizes. “Last year alone, our corporate members purchased over $108 billion from our firms, nationally,” he said.
Pleased that there are several new corporations participating this year, like Chevron and Shell, Nichols says it is a good indication that the fair continues to provide value.
Robert Williams, president of SlateBelt Safety based in the eastern part of the state, a first time participant said he appreciated the opportunity to meet top corporate and government buyers as well as other MBEs all in one spot. “The people here are the ones that can steer you in the right direction.”
An affiliate of the National Minority Supplier Development Council, the groups’ 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 country wide 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.
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