Meet Vernon and Duane
For many minority- and women-owned vendors and contractors, Penn State can be a difficult place to get their foot in the door to do business. Luckily, there are two F&B employees who not only open the door for them, but also welcome them inside.
Vernon Davis, contractor-liaison with the Office of Physical Plant and Duane Bullock, manager of Supplier Diversity with Procurement Services, find areas around the University where minority-owned businesses (MBEs) and women-owned businesses (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, attract diverse contractors. It'll help in ways we haven't considered."
The duo frequents trade fairs and hosts a program called "Doing Business with Penn State," which they offer every year in Harrisburg. Davis said it's his and Bullock's job to make sure the vendor or contractor has the ability to provide the service needed by the University.
"I tell them, 'If you guys aren't successful, I'm not successful,' " Davis said. "Not every MBE/WBE is ready for Penn State business. We have to make sure their ready. You got to have success to breed more 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 do business with Penn State," 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."
"The key is giving people opportunities," Bullock said. "You learn that when reaching out and stepping out of the boat to see what's out there. Our program is inclusive for everyone. We want to get all involved."
In their travels, they've 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 for everyone," Bullock said.
Bullock added, "No company started large. It's important to give the smaller firms a chance. We are like a guide that gets them into the room."
Both say their jobs go further than getting MBE/WBEs connected with Penn State. When traveling the Commonwealth and meeting new vendors, Bullock and Davis see themselves as the face of the University.
Bullock says that the vendors form their opinions about Penn State through the interactions with himself and Davis—and that's a responsibility both men are willing to take on.
"We travel around the state to seek (vendors) out, sometimes to more diverse cities and areas," Bullock said. "We become the face of Penn State, like ambassadors. People look at us and see the whole University. That's a huge connection."
That connection stretches across the Commonwealth and sometimes over to neighboring states. It's a network Davis and Bullock are building and betters Penn State's pool of collaborators.
When the University has a diverse Rolodex of vendors and contractors, it has a bigger variety of services to choose from. That ups competition, lowers costs, and maintains quality across the board. Something everyone wants to open a door to.