The University of Pennsylvania recently hosted a forum and expo with representatives from local minority- and women-owned businesses and community leaders showcasing strategies that are prompting supplier diversity at Penn and beyond.

The forum brought together local and diverse suppliers, Penn buyers, local agencies and organizations.

Mark E. Mills, executive director and chief procurement officer of Penn Purchasing Services, moderated a panel where participants shared their thoughts on strategies that drive inclusion and supplier diversity in Philadelphia.

The panelists included Lucia DiNapoli, director of strategic initiatives for administration at the Penn School of Nursing; Jennifer Rodriguez, president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Winfred Sanders, president of Neta Scientific Inc.; and Craig Williams, president of American Power Electrical Supply Co.

The panelists offered some key advice for suppliers seeking to do business with anchor institutions like Penn.

“Above all else, you really need to have patience,” said Williams, whose electrical supply company serves Greater Philadelphia and the tri-state area.

“You need to understand that an institution like the University of Pennsylvania — they have the resources that they need. They are not in desperate need of another contractor, and so when you are given the opportunity, you need to step up, your pricing needs to be competitive, your offering needs to be solid and the quality needs to be there.”

And in this competitive market, “everyone that wants a seat at the table has to understand that your seat is only conditional. The conditions being that when the contract is over they have the right to revoke your privilege at the table,” Sanders said.

“The other thing that I would say to diverse businesses is make sure that your brand represents who you are.”

After Sanders’ company became a preferred supplier of Corning life sciences products for Penn, he said, “we didn’t rest on our laurels.”

Neta Scientific leveraged what it learned from working with Penn into forming business relationships with other universities around the country.

The forum was followed by an expo featuring approximately 30 local and diverse suppliers along with information about supporting resources from Penn and local organizations.

Since Penn instituted its Economic Inclusion Program in 1996, the university has spent more than a billion dollars in construction contracts with minority- and women-owned businesses. The program is chaired by Glenn Bryan, who works collaboratively with local organizations promoting contracting and workforce opportunities for locals, minorities and women.

Bryan said Penn anticipates spending $125 million in goods and services with diverse businesses during 2019.

In 2018, Penn’s diverse spending across the city was $126 million and the local spend in West Philadelphia was $90 million, said Craig R. Carnaroli, Penn’s executive vice president. Some of Penn’s diverse suppliers include EMSCO Scientific, which collaborated with Fisher Scientific and was awarded a contract as a lab equipment supplier; AppleOne, a provider of temporary staffing services; and Telrose Corp., a Tier 1 supplier of office supplies.

Bryan also highlighted a Penn program designed to increase the number of minorities and women in the building trades. Through the initiative, which is in its second year, Penn has worked with the School District of Philadelphia to place 43 individuals into the building trades with an expected additional 29 this year.

“Penn’s investment in civic engagement and economic development is a bedrock principle of this institution,” Carnaroli said.

Carnaroli said that Penn is intentional when it comes to supplier diversity.

“To be intentional is a powerful concept, and especially true for anchor institutions, such as Penn,” he said.

“It means we take seriously our role as a fixed presence in Philadelphia, and one that is unlikely to move. As a result, we make deliberate decisions to enhance the community and city for the long haul.”

ajones@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5747

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