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Words to action: Supporting minority, women, and veteran-owned businesses

It’s a pleasure to be here with so many leaders in our community and in our state who are committed to supporting minority- women- and veteran-owned businesses.

Let me first thank our mayor and University of Rochester Alumnus Malik Evans for his leadership and his partnership with the University to help make our city a better place for everyone to live, learn, and do business.

I’d also like to thank County Executive Adam Bello, who made sure Monroe County was a summit co-sponsor along with the University of Rochester and the NY/NJ Minority Business Development Council. Their collaboration, along with the many corporate participants listed in your program, has helped make this summit possible and is absolutely essential to progress.

I’m humbled to be here with all of you, having just celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day last week. I’m humbled because this summit to support and strengthen minority- and women-owned businesses is a direct product of the dream Dr. King prophetically spoke of 60 years ago this year.

Few places can claim to have nurtured his dream of equity and inclusion more than Rochester, New York. We live in the city where Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass led the suffrage and emancipation movements to free and empower women and African Americans, respectively. The principles they advocated – freedom, voting rights, and equal opportunity – have gone on to define our country. And we, as Greater Rochesterians, are the keepers of their legacy.

That legacy stretches from Emancipation and Reconstruction to Civil Rights, Suffrage, Black Lives Matter, and the Me Too Movement. These ongoing, organic, and grassroots movements have been the inspiration for countless other struggles for freedom and equality – many of which continue today.

It’s no stretch to say that this Upstate New York Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Summit is a product of the movements Douglass and Anthony led nearly two centuries ago. Over the years, the University of Rochester has been and continues to be substantially influenced by these towering figures and the movements they led.

As the largest employer in the region and one of the largest in the state, I have made sure that this University has a long-term commitment to investing in women, veterans, and underrepresented minorities in our community. We’ve made this commitment because we know it is essential to making our community a better place to live, learn, and do business.

I’d like to share a few examples of steps the University of Rochester has taken toward this goal.

  • In August, we signed a five-year “Community Contract” with a company called Vizient to connect its member hospitals in upstate New York with local diverse suppliers.
  • We’ve invested in new software to track diverse supplier spending and leverage the data to define strategic growth opportunities.
  • And we’ve created a new Purchasing Supplier Diversity website that provides diverse suppliers with a defined access point to the resources and supporting tools to win University business.

But perhaps one of the best examples I can point to is the work we’re doing to build long-term partnerships with diverse suppliers.  During the past year, we’ve been working with a minority-owned and operated local construction company called Upstate Interiors. As an approved University vendor, Upstate Interiors became one of the many contractors working on our new outpatient orthopedics facility opening this month at Marketplace Mall in Henrietta.

Computer wall mounts were needed in our new ambulatory surgery center, and our Facilities group requested that Upstate Interiors be trained and certified by the Toronto-based medical equipment vendor to install them.

Through this arrangement, we received excellent installations in our new facility by a minority-owned business and now have a resource we can count on to install computer wall mounts across our entire health system. We’ve also learned that the Toronto vendor that trained Upstate Interiors wants to use them for other client work, which means this local company now has access to new markets beyond Rochester.

But the story doesn’t end there. The company’s Vice President Knofi McClary is here today. Knofi’s company has also been working with several community organizations to address the shortage of skilled laborers in our region. Upstate Interiors has been training new workers and helping them address barriers that often prevent people from entering the trades, such as tool costs and transportation to work sites.

This is a fitting example of how collaboration and intention are essential to progress.

I invite all of us to keep turning words into action and support other minority- women- and veteran-owned businesses like Upstate Interiors because supporting them makes Greater Rochester a better place for everyone to live, learn, and do business.

Sarah C. Mangelsdorf
President and G. Robert Witmer, Jr. University Professor

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