Programs assist women and miniorities with University contracts

February 24, 2012

Duane Bullock and Vernon Davis are diversifying the University’s business world. Through their Supplier and Contractor Diversity programs, the pair creates bridges and provides opportunities between the University and women-owned businesses (WBEs) and minority-owned businesses (MBEs).  

Although they work in different units, Bullock and Davis share the same diversity initiative: to increase the University's spending on services and supplies by qualified WBEs and MBEs. With a new Supplier Diversity website that went live in February, they are continuing to make steps toward that goal.

Davis is a contractor liaison for the Office of Physical Plant and the manager of contractor diversity. He focuses on finding qualified contractors to bid on University’s construction projects. 

“Contractor diversity deals mainly with the construction side,” Davis said. “A vast majority of MBE/WBE contractors bid as subcontractors, but the ultimate goal is to have them bid as prime bidders."

The University only contracts with prime bidders, and prime bidders contract or hire subcontractors.

“They bid their work to prime bidders that are bidding to the University,” said Davis. “That enables them to become a part of the construction project.” 

Davis said that another way for MBEs and WBEs to participate on a construction project is by providing building supplies and equipment for the project. That's where fellow diversity leader and manager, Bullock, of the supplying aspect of the program comes in.

“I represent Procurement Services,” Bullock said. “We purchase goods and services within our unit. My side of supplier diversity tries to find minority- and woman-owned businesses that can supply those things to us."

The products can be anything from furniture to janitorial to computers, Bullock said. In addition to the tangible items that these suppliers offer, Bullock also seeks out businesses that provide services such as consulting or professional work.

Although Bullock and Davis work with different aspects of the diversity business, they spend a lot of time working together on their mutual goal. Their own partnership is one that both men find enjoyable and successful.

“We all want the same result,” Davis said. “I know construction and Duane knows procurement, but diversity is the ultimate goal.”

Keeping each other’s program interests in mind, they seek out these diverse businesses in and around Centre County to see whether purchasing and contracting partnerships are possible. 

Davis said that for the majority of these businesses, knowing where to go is the hardest thing. Their programs make it easier for companies to navigate the Penn State business world. He also said that the duo's ability to share businesses with each other makes it easier for those companies as well.

“Penn State is a big place,” Davis said. “If there’s someone I run into that I necessarily can’t help, I know that I can send them to Duane and the same goes for him.”

“We are more or less guides in that way,” Bullock said. “We provide direction for suppliers as far as who talk to, and how to get in.”  

The pair also assists minority businesses by holding trade fairs and outreach programs like "Doing Business with Penn State" and also partnering with organizations that help spread the word.  

Both Bullock and Davis agree that not every business is suited for Penn State. It takes a few important things in order to be considered “ready” in their eyes. 

“You’ve got to have experience,” Davis said. “Not even just in that work, but also in working in higher education.” 

Some of the program's success stories include Jim Cooper of Sterling Contracting and Jim Golden of Golden Opportunity. Both businessmen attest to their positive experience with Supplier and Contractor Diversity at Penn State. 

“In all my 12 years as a businessman,” Cooper said, “this [Supplier Diversity program] has been one of the best. Duane really follows through. He goes that extra mile for you.”  

Golden also had nothing but positive things to say about his experience. He enjoyed every aspect of the program and considers his business a success story for the program.  

“Overall it’s been a very good experience,” Golden said. “Everyone is so helpful and so proactive. It provided me a platform to present my business and workshop.” 

It is clear that diversity initiatives have come a long way at Penn State, but both Bullock and Davis agree that their mission isn’t over. 

“I hope that diversity just becomes a part of the 'We Are' culture,” Bullock said. “That it just flows and becomes a part of the fabric of Penn State.”

For additional information on these programs, email Duane Bullock at or Vernon Davis at


  • Donning a tie-dye lab coat, Steve Gantman of DOT Scientific, speaks to attendees at a Research Supplier Fair organized by Duane Bullock. The event introduced diverse suppliers to a variety of Penn State departments.

    IMAGE: Jonathan McVerry
Last Updated March 01, 2012