Minority Chambers of Congress

Chambers of Commerce assist with supplier diversity needs

America’s workforce should reflect America, panelists agreed during a Connect (X) 2021 discussion among representatives from various minority Chambers of Commerce. As the  Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is rolled out, the need to connect diverse suppliers with purchasers will grow in importance, and companies will have the opportunity to make those connections at WIA’s Supplier Diversity Summit. This year it takes place Wednesday, May 25, in Denver as part of Connect (X).

Minority Chambers of Commerce can help WIA members collaborate as states roll out broadband programs throughout the country, noted Dr. Ron Johnson, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Multicultural Media Telecom & Internet Council.

“We know diversity means about $1.6 trillion in purchasing power in the Black community in America; $1.3 trillion in the Pan-Asian American community; $2.6 trillion for Hispanics, the largest minority community in the country. And $1.6 trillion in the LGBT community,” said Susan Au Allen, National President and CEO for the U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation (USPAACC).

Partnering with minority businesses is not charity, said Justin Nelson, Co-Founder & President of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). “These are strong, growing, vibrant enterprises that can add a lot of value to the supply chain, that can team with you if you’re a small business owner that’s looking to get a big project on broadband, whatever it is that you’re looking at doing, these are companies that can work with you directly.
“Supplier diversity is designed to help marginalized communities, not have a handout, but to get to the race. They’ve still got to run it. They still have to do everything that every other business does but historically they’ve been left out of the RFP process,” especially for U.S. government contracts, Nelson continued.

Corporate America has been challenged with finding Black firms to work with or having them have enough scale. To help solve this issue, U.S. Black Chamber created its own certification to ensure that when corporations are trying increase their spend, they can be assured the firm they are working with has been certified, verified and validated, said Ron Busby, President/CEO of U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. (USBC).

“We definitely made sure that wireless infrastructure spending was included in this infrastructure bill, and how important it is that wireless and broadband infrastructure is built throughout all of America, including rural America, because the limitation of broadband connectivity should not be tied to a person’s educational success based on the zip code they are in,” commented C. LeRoy Cavazos-Reyna, Vice President of Government and International Affairs at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “We have gained a huge learning curve, in what the future looks like for this industry and what the outcomes can be if we deploy the adequate resources across our country. Public policy plays a role in that, because us as chambers of commerce, we can offer strategic advocacy to make sure that your business interests are taken care of, to deploying federal procurement and federal money in order to continue to keep businesses like yours powered. As long as there’s a certain spectrum of diversity within your business, and that you know that there’s businesses out there that are going to come compete for those same contracts, using groups like ours as the conduit to supply you with the necessary workforce, the necessary contracting, and the necessary lens that you all need to have in order to make sure that you all are successful in this industry.”

Describing the power of the Chambers of Commerce, panelists noted the 150 Black chambers in 42 states with a membership base of over 385,000 Black-owned businesses; The Hispanic Chamber counts over 5 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States and a network of more than 260 Hispanic Chambers; and 54 affiliates in the U.S. and 22 globally. The LGBT Chamber represents the interests of the estimated 1.4 million LGBT-owned businesses across the country. The US Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce is the most established and largest nonprofit organization and celebrated its 36th anniversary in 2021.

The Supplier Diversity Summit is a signature event and intimate component of Connect (X), designed to facilitate productive discussions on the role of diversity in the connectivity sector and match attendees with top-notch procurement opportunities. The Connect (X) 2022 Supplier Diversity Summit features targeted programming on the inclusion of veteran-, women- and minority-owned businesses in the wireless infrastructure industry.