Houston First Supplier Diversity Program Boasts Big Participation Uptick

June 7, 2017

Houston First Corporation’s supplier diversity program has experienced its biggest increase in participation numbers since the program’s genesis almost five years ago. 

Participation by small, minority and women-owned business enterprises (MWBE) for 2016 measured at 41 percent, an increase of nine percent, compared with its 32 percent participation rate in 2015. 

The program consistently has surpassed the 30 percent participation goal HFC established in 2012, when the program was launched with the intention of maximizing the number of suppliers able to provide quality goods and services at competitive rates throughout all areas of HFC’s operations.

So far, HFC has awarded more than 350 contracts totaling more than $158 million to qualified MWBE vendors. 

“Our initiatives and strong commitment throughout our organization to supplier diversity continue to drive our numbers in the right direction,” said Dawn Ullrich, Houston First president and CEO.

She continued, “Houston First not only values diversity and inclusion, we recognize the impact minority and women-owned businesses have on our bottom line. We have found some of our most competitive suppliers through our diversity program.”

HFC has used myriad strategies to help identify and engage potential minority vendors, including hosting more than 150 diverse vendors at its Strategic Economic Opportunities Forum in 2016; attending more than 50 events to support and promote MWBE businesses; advertising in community newspapers, conducting email campaigns and making appearances at speaking engagements, local TV and radio programming, and working with government agencies that use similar programs and business objectives.

“Houston First continues to expand opportunities to a diverse supplier base,” Ullrich said.

She added, “It is a win for the supplier and the city because successful vendors are then able to create jobs and increase tax revenues, which strengthen our local economy.”

To improve its relationship with historically underutilized businesses, Houston First joined the Interagency Mentor Protégé Program, which is sponsored by the City of Houston, Houston Community College, Houston Independent School District, METRO and the Port of Houston.

As a result of the program, HFC has developed strong relationships with local minority vendors that have enabled it to cut costs, meet challenging deadlines and find innovative business solutions, according to Mitch Miszkowski, purchasing agent for Houston First. 

“More effectively engaging minorities, women, small and historically underutilized businesses in contracting and procurement isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s good business,” Miszkowski said.

He continued, “Chiefly, diversity and inclusion is a key component of our stated values, vision and mission statement. As we lead the effort to promote Houston as a premier destination, diversity is an integral message. It’s who we are.” 

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