Diversity programs open doors to doing business with Penn State

Every day, Penn State Finance and Business employees Vernon Davis and Duane Bullock work to open the doors of opportunity for minority- and women-owned suppliers and contractors who want to do business with Penn State.

Davis, contractor-liaison with the Office of Physical Plant and Bullock, manager of Supplier Diversity with Procurement Services, find areas around the University where minority-owned enterprises (MBEs) and women-owned enterprises (WBEs) can team up with University units to offer quality services.

"It's part of our job to not only introduce businesses to Penn State, but to introduce Penn State to other new businesses," Davis said. "We want to widen the University's umbrella, and attract diverse contractors in ways we haven't considered."

The duo frequents trade fairs and hosts an outreach program called "Doing Business with Penn State," which they offer across the Commonwealth. Davis said it's his and Bullock's job to make sure the supplier or contractor has the capacity to provide the service needed by the University.

"I tell them, 'I want you to be successful. If you guys aren't successful, I'm not successful,' " Davis said. "Their success is imperative to our program. Nothing breeds success like success."

Both men admit their initiatives are continually evolving, but signs of success can be found in the feedback they receive and responses they get while on the road, as well as the growing percentage of MBE/WBEs working with Penn State.

"People always smile when they say they are working on a Penn State job," Davis said. "It makes them feel good."

Bullock shared some feedback he recently received from Hannah Kluger of All Points Communications, a WBE from Basking Ridge, NJ. She told Bullock, "I have not met many individuals in your position who are so devoted to making sure people like myself are given opportunities."

In their travels, Bullock and Davis learned that these businesses aren't looking for a free ride. They just want a seat at the table so they can compete with everyone else.

"The Penn State pie is large enough to share," Bullock said. "No company started out large. It's important to give the smaller firms a chance. We operate as conductors guiding MBE/WBEs to areas of opportunity.”

Both say their jobs go much further than just getting MBE/WBEs connected with Penn State. When traveling the Commonwealth and meeting new suppliers, Bullock and Davis see themselves as ambassadors for the University.

"People look at us and see the University as a whole, not just the business areas that we represent," Bullock said. "That's a huge connection."

Bullock added that the suppliers form their opinions about Penn State through the interactions with himself and Davis—and that's a responsibility both men are willing to embrace. That connection stretches across the Commonwealth and sometimes over to neighboring states. It's a network Davis and Bullock are building that betters Penn State's pool of contractors and suppliers.

Last Updated April 15, 2011