VOL. 132 | NO. 80 | Friday, April 21, 2017
Memphis Chamber Sets Goal for Local, Minority Contracts
By Bill Dries
The Greater Memphis Chamber has set a goal of 600 new business-to-business contracts for minority- and women-owned enterprises and locally-owned firms by the end of the year.
The goal, split 50-50 between the two kinds of contracting and hiring by private businesses, was announced Thursday, April 20, at the chamber’s quarterly Small Business Council breakfast in East Memphis.
It’s the latest effort in a series by the chamber that includes large businesses partnering with smaller minority and locally-owned firms to mentor them as well as do business with them.
That effort was launched in January and has produced some contracts that go toward the year-end goal.
“This is a baseline year as far as we are concerned,” said project director Andre Gibson. “Whether you think it’s low, whether you think it’s high – we’re setting this goal here. … And we definitely are going to increase this goal for next year.”
The private business-to-business effort is targeted specifically at improving the less than 1 percent of gross business receipts in Memphis that go to black-owned and minority businesses.
“That’s about 70 percent of our population,” said Shea Flinn, vice president of the chamber’s Chairman’s Circle. “That’s a pretty big discrepancy, and that’s a pretty big stumbling block to the prosperity and success that we want.”
Gibson said in the three years that the chamber has been working toward the goal, there has been some acceptance.
The drive toward minority business growth, and black business growth in particular, was jumpstarted in 2014 by black business and political leaders who argued past efforts had been hamstrung by resistance, a lack of resolve and a focus on regulations and process over results.
“It’s been easy to get buy-in at the CEO level,” Gibson said, “but when it gets down to those purchasing managers, those procurement managers, they need help in being able to take the risk on doing business a different way than they’ve done it before.”
Gibson calls it the “blue car theory.”
“If you start shopping for a blue car, all of a sudden you see blue cars all over the place,” he said. “That’s the hope we have for this program – once you start looking for different types of vendors, different types of partners, that that will update your thinking going forward.”
Chamber president Phil Trenary said while much of the attention has been on improving local government contracting with minority- and women-owned local businesses, the business-to-business contracts “are where the big money is.”
“Most people want to do the right thing,” Trenary said. “This is a not-so-subtle reminder that is there all the time.”
Daphne Large, the president and CEO of Data Facts Inc., said the effort is a way to “bootstrap Memphis to the next level.”
“Stop outsourcing your business to out-of-town companies,” she added. “You have to stop doing that. You have qualified, experienced people right here in Memphis. That message has to come from the top down.”