Supplier Diversity Lunch and Learn


Supplier Diversity Panel, from left: Shurronda Murray, Carlecia Wright, April Day, Ingrid Robinson, Jewel Smith, Donavan Casanova, Marian Nimon, Annie Lidge, Cindi Salas
Photo: Bijay Dixit

By Manu Shah

HOUSTON: Certification brings visibility to a business and promotes growth. This was the message shared by 8 panelists at the Annual IACCGH Supplier Diversity event held at the Hess Club on August 23. The event which drew over 100 attendees is in the words of Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia “a continued commitment by the Chamber to educate the community about the benefits of certification as a Women or Minority Business Enterprise (WMBE).”

Welcoming the gathering, President Joya Shukla also emphasized the Chamber’s commitment of connecting diversity suppliers to corporations. Chief Guest, VP Fred Whipple highlighted Shell’s efforts to encourage supplier diversity for the past 20 years. Today the Company had redoubled its efforts to build more suppliers as it fosters better cost structure among other benefits.

Affirming that “no organization stands alone” Moderator Jewel Smith of CenterPoint Energy invited the panelists to share “resources and nuggets of information” that would be important for business success.

Houston Minority Supplier Diversity Council President Ingrid Robinson underscored the fact that Certification validates a Company’s status as a 51% minority owned business to major corporations.  In addition to certification, HMSDC also helps suppliers connect with companies, advocates on behalf of minorities and provides access to national/international markets.

“Get every certification you can get” was Women Business Enterprise Alliance (WBEA) President April Day’s advice. Certification by the WBEA assured Corporates that the woman owned business had been “vetted” and given the stamp of approval.

The organization, she noted, also helps in capacity building programs and opportunities to connect with other Women Owned Businesses.

Carlecia Wright from the City of Houston stepped up to stress that “certification can be leveraged in many ways.” The Office also certifies on behalf of Texas Transportation facilitating suppliers interested in working with METRO, TxDOT or the airports. The office also helps suppliers navigate the business process and offers free legal service once a month.

METRO’s External Relations Officer Shurronda Murray encouraged the gathering to register as a Vendor and get certified as a METRO Small Business Enterprise. Certification by METRO is free, good for 3 years and race and gender neutral. It also offers eligibility to bid on contracts with SBE goals and notice of procurement opportunities.

Midway, the dialogue turned to four corporate representatives who outlined the qualities they looked for in suppliers. Each of them added a supplier diversity success story.

Global engineering giant FLUOR’s Supplier Diversity Manager Annie Lidge described high safety records as an overriding factor in choosing a supplier.

MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Marian Nimon spoke of supplier credibility and quality commitment while Cindi Salas of CenterPoint Energy highlighted the “creativity and innovation” that suppliers brought to the table.

Donovan Casanave outlined Shell’s guidelines that would help a supplier “fit into their corporate pipeline”

HMSDC Past President Richard Huebner, considered the father of Diversity in Houston, was also present in the house and was presented a plaque for his efforts in promoting the concept of supplier diversity. On behalf of the Chamber, he presented plaques of appreciation to the panelists.

The Chamber is hosting its 17th Annual Gala at the Hilton Americas on September 9th with Keynote Speaker Bruce Culpepper President Shell USA. For more information, please log onto