New committee to focus on HISD’s supplier diversity initiatives

The Houston Independent School District held the inaugural meeting of its new Advisory Committee for Supplier Diversity earlier this week to build on the ongoing success of its program for minority and women-owned business enterprises.

The new committee gathered on Monday, Dec. 10, as the district moves forward with its 2012 bond program to repair, replace or build 40 schools. The goal of the committee is to provide input into how the district can improve M/WBE outreach efforts and accountability.

The district’s M/WBE program has already seen a record level of success with M/WBE participation in the 2007 bond program at 33 percent.  As the 2012 bond program unfolds, HISD wants to build on that progress.

“We want to ensure that we have the best practices in place for the Supplier Diversity program,” Alexis Licata, general manager for HISD’s Office of Business Assistance, told participants. “Our goal is to grow and achieve more M/WBE participation in the upcoming 2012 bond program.”

The volunteer committee members represent the Asian Chamber of Commerce, the Citizens Chamber of Commerce, the East End Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Houston Minority Supplier Development Council, the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston, the National Association of Minority Contractors, the Women Contractors Association and the Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance.

At its first meeting, Licata reviewed the current M/WBE program and highlighted some proposed changes, including a new scoring system that provides firms multiple good faith effort options to meet M/WBE goals. Some of those initiatives include placing advertisements to find M/WBE subcontractors or attend pre-bid conferences where they can network with potential M/WBE partners.

The new system would also grant points to companies that serve as a mentor to an M/WBE company, or have company policies that support M/WBE participation. 

Committee members said such efforts could help increase M/WBE participation, and asked for time to review the proposal with their organizations. 

“The point system is great,” said Valerie Delafosse, of the Women Contractors Association, “that would encourage them to do more.”

The committee will hold its next meeting at 10 a.m. on Jan. 25, 2013, at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center.