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Minority supplier council builds bridges to small, minority-owned firms

Originally published on August 3, 2013 by Dee DePass, Star Tribune. Read original article here.

New U study shows that minority-owned Minnesota businesses contribute more than $2 billion to the state economy. 

Since becoming president of the Midwest Minority Supplier Development Council (MMSDC) two years ago, Duane Ramseur has secured three wins:

• Glen Taylor's printing company finally joined MMSDC last year.

• Cargill in May promised to buy $1 billion in supplies from minority firms.

• The University of Minnesota issued a study this summer showing that minority-owned businesses contribute more than $2.14 billion in contracts, wages and spending to Minnesota's economy each year.

Membership in the 38-year-old nonprofit development corporation includes 300 certified minority businesses and 113 large corporations.

Its goal is to foster long-lasting supply relationships that bring revenue, jobs, diversity and business development opportunities to local communities, said Ramseur, who last week sat down to talk to the Star Tribune about his group's successes.

Q: Why did you commission the U of M to study the MMSDC?

A: The vision of this economic impact study was really Darren Harmon's, who is the director of supplier diversity at General Mills [and a MMSDC board member]. We felt that we needed a study to show our impact on the economy. It was important that it was based on fact and not emotion [and that] it be done independently — by someone who had no vested interest.

Q: Twenty years ago the MMSDC had just 130 minority business members, 90 corporate members and about $51 million in partnership contracts to talk about. So did the results of the new U of M study surprise you?

A: Yes. I was pleasantly surprised. I learned that our minority business enterprises had a $2.1 billion impact on the state of Minnesota's economy. That [includes] direct contracts. And it's the indirect goods, services and inventories minority businesses [and their employees] purchase. [Minority owned businesses] contributed $264 million in federal, state and local taxes. This study shows that minority businesses connect to Minnesota's economy in a positive way.

Q: The MMSDC entity that the U of M studied is actually one of 36 councils nationwide. Can you give an example of some minority suppliers in Minnesota?

A: We have Tempo Creative Consultants, which is an advertising firm. We have Thor Construction and Gil Baldwin's [Columbia Precision Machine Shop]; Kelly Computer Supply and Catalina Specialty Foods, which makes tortillas for McDonald's.

We also have IT firm Taj Technologies. Those are just a few. But they are all anchors of the community and thriving.

Q: How many jobs do these firms and the rest of the 300 minority business members create annually, according to the U of M study?

A: About 1,776 jobs a year. These companies not only provided jobs for the community, they also provided for their own families. They pay taxes and send their children to college. In the end, that is our mission. It's to provide the American dream to minority business enterprises who may not have had the opportunity. That's exciting.

Q: Does the job creation that flows from smaller MMSDC members impact Minnesota's high unemployment rate for African-American job seekers? As you know, Minnesota's rate is among the highest in the nation.

A: Yes. We impact black employment by promoting black businesses and all the other [ethnic] businesses. Statistics have shown that minority business enterprises hire a higher percentage of employees of color than the general business population. That is what we see here.

Q: Your large corporate MMSDC members include behemoths such as Xcel Energy, Best Buy, Target, Cargill, General Mills, Ameriprise, the Twins, 3M and Medtronic. What do they get by partnering with minority suppliers?

A: These corporations are able to work with minority businesses that are creative and nimble and talented. They sometimes are immigrants from around the world that speak different languages. That can bring different solutions to a corporation's problems. And it can provide access to new markets and talent not currently available in some corporate communities. We serve African-American, Native American, Hispanic and Asian business owners.

Q: What do the smaller minority-owned businesses gain by working with your larger MMSDC corporate members?

A: They are able to receive large contracts and to sell their goods and services to global organizations. They can participate in mentor/protégé programs. And they gain access to decision makers that they would typically not get. Our members are the vice presidents and the leaders of procurement in our corporations.

Q: In May, Cargill CEO Greg Page more than doubled Cargill's commitment to MMSDC suppliers by pledging to buy $1 billion worth of goods from minority and women-owned ­businesses by 2018. It now buys $460 million worth of goods. What did that pledge mean?

A: It was just tremendous. It was significant to both our MBEs and our corporate members because Greg Page challenged other corporations to also increase their commitment to minority businesses. That was just outstanding. We had not had someone from this region commit to the $1 billion before. It was groundbreaking.

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