Exploding ethnic population signals great opportunity for Georgia’s minority suppliers

Written by Tomi Morris Johnson.  Photos by Kurk Johnson 

©2002 WingcomLtd. All Rights Reserved.

tomij@wingcomltd.com

 

Atlanta, GA…The Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council (GMSDC) is a small business-networking friend.  Despite the economic devastation the country experienced in 2001, there is new energy, a committed people, renewed confidence, ambitious and heightened goals, and cause for celebration for organization members. 

 

The Georgia group, which is an affiliate of the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), has this statement posted on its website: “…we recognize the role and plight of minority businesses in Georgia and nationwide. We are committed to leveling the playing field by creating links to progressive business opportunities through relationships, exposure, resources, and education.”

 

At its three hour Business Opportunity Luncheon held February 26, 2002 at Maggiano's Little Italy in affluent Buckhead, the Invocation included The Prayer of Jabez, asking for new territory and marketing niches. Business people in Georgia are continuing to identify opportunities in an atmosphere of fellowship, vowing to make things happen.

GMSDC memberships were checked by Ly Eldridge at luncheon.

 

 

“GMSDC is an organization that certifies minority businesses and provides them a networking opportunity with corporate America,” said Executive Director George Lottier. In a response to a question about the recession affecting business, he said, “Minority businesses are use to having down times, so it’s not something unusual for them.  We have 160 registered luncheon guests here today, which is up from 100 participants at our last luncheon which tells us that the economy must be pretty good. A down economy makes small business people more aggressive. They can turn a lot quicker on decisions than corporate America can. They can change their pricing structure and the way they approach people.”

 

James “JW” Waudby, GMSDC membership committee member, (l) takes photo op with George Lottier, executive director of GMSDC.

 

 

“These kinds of networking events are important because you meet new clients and have opportunities to become a sub-vendor for someone,” said Kim Gaskins, E-Staffing Solutions Group, Inc. (ESSGI)   “With the economy the way it is, this is extremely critical.”   Moreover, with people moving away from Atlanta because of quality of life issues, how will business in Georgia be impacted?  “I think it will affect us long-term if we lose a lot of people.  I also think that what goes up sky high must come down, and with the bottom falling out of the Dot.com industry, some people leaving Atlanta will be natural attrition. We’ll probably level out. As long as there’s opportunity, we will be able to bring people into Atlanta.  It’s one of the biggest transient cities in the world.”     

 

(L to R) Kim Gaskins, E-Staffing Solutions Group, Inc. (ESSGI) and Daryl Fox, Regional VP, ACT 1, Technical & Professional Services exchange business cards during luncheon.

 

Although IT contracts seem to have fallen through the basement, there still is a client base and need for services.  “We’re seeing less requirements, and there definitely is a challenge as far as competition, but actually we’re doing very well,” said Daryl Fox, Regional VP, ACT 1, Technical & Professional Services. “We have to stay positive.” 

 

Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Oscar A. Vazquez-Ortiz, Senior VP, Superior Design International, Inc. (SDI) finds Georgia a great place to do business.  SDI is a full service staffing and business solutions organization. “I’ve been here five years, and the growth has been incredible. There’s a lot of opportunity, both for business people and employees who want to find jobs.”       

 

In order for a company to find its niche, either in Atlanta or internationally, networking is critical. “You have got to do what we’re doing here today,” Vazquez-Ortiz said. “You have to join organizations like GMSDC, The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, etc. That’s where you are going to meet the people who will open the doors for you.  It’s very hard to do it any other way.”

 

Table 14:  (L to R) Oscar A. Vazquez-Ortiz, Senior VP, Superior Design International, Inc.; Elisa Wells, CIC, ARM, Riskmasters; Tomi Johnson, WingcomLtd; Ralph R. Robinson, Robinson Enterprises International, Nea A. Simone, VP Marketing, SL King & Associates, Inc.

S. T. Peden, Minority Supplier Diversity Leader with GE Power Systems, attended the luncheon to identify vendors who could provide over $20B in equipment and services to his electric utility company. Fortune Magazine announced in February 2002 that GE Power Systems is "America's most admired company," according to a survey of the country's leading business men and women. The company has won the honor five years in a row.

 

Sandeep Gauba, President & CEO, Metasys Technologies, Inc.; Aravind Goli, VP Marketing,

International Technology Solutions, Inc.; Bob Cipriano, GE Power Systems; Brian Robbins,

GE Power Systems discuss possible business opportunities.

 

 “We’re looking for manufacturing firms and will be spending 85% of our funds on direct materials.  Other areas are metal machining, fabrication and logistics. Our number one need is IT services.  Even though there are millions of IT firms, we need to screen firms to make sure they can do business with a global company.” 

 

Attendees were updated on Georgia’s economic demographics in a speech by Debra Duchon, Applied Culture Research Project, Georgia State University.  She announced there are profound populations changes occurring: Hispanic population up from 24,000 in 1980 to 268,000 in 2000.  The Asian population has increased from 13,909 to 150,000 during the same period. 

           

 

“Ethnicity is exploding in Georgia…the whole state is changing,” Duchon added.  Areas affected include Dalton, Rome and Gainesville; the whole I75 corridor; the Vidalia onion belt; and Cobb, Cherokee, and Whitfield counties. Kurdish refugees who came to Georgia after the Gulf War have been accompanied by people from Somalia, Russia, and Bosnia. There is a need for service organizations to sponsor these newcomers in the way of health care, lodging, and education. “Bosnians are starting businesses rapidly, and Nigerians are very commerce minded,” Duchon said.

 

“Ethnicity is exploding in Georgia,” said luncheon speaker Debra Duchon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cecil Moore, Director of Contractor Compliance for Atlanta Public Schools, was another speaker who instructed attendees on the demographics of students and Atlanta’s need for vendors.  “Although schools in Atlanta are down from 200 to 97, we have a $516m budget, one of the largest in the country,” Moore said.  “Our 57,000 students speak 50 different languages. Eighty percent are on free or reduced lunch. Our buses carry 33,000 children daily.  Our goal is to have the best urban school system within five years.” 

 

Moore said material needs will increase along with staffing services, opening the doors for minority vendors. $120m or 26% of spending went to minority firms last year, and it was projected that this year’s spending with minority vendors could reach 32%. He said the intense bidding bureaucracy of the public sector which issues boilerplate documents deemed “standard stuff” should not frighten off small businesspeople.  

 

Cecil S. Moore, Director, Office of Contract Compliance, Atlanta Public Schools, was a featured speaker.

 

Vendors who spend a lot of time and money on the process and negotiation needed to win bids are sometimes discouraged when projects lose funding. Moore urged business professionals to meet with purchasing agents and request conferences to answer questions.  Moore also requested that business people help the schools and themselves by joining mentoring programs such as Junior Achievement, becoming positive role models, and sponsoring scholarships.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dino Sims, Engenius Consulting Group, poses with Sandra Y. Adams, CEO, Computer Mainstream Corporation.

Jenell McCrory, Karen Mills, Mike Toye, and Regina Teasley discuss transportation services.

 

To learn more about GMSDC, go to the organization’s website at: http://www.gmsdc.org.

This information is the opinion of the author and, therefore, should not be construed as libelous.