Event connects minority suppliers with buyers


The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce hopes to encourage economic diversity and connect minority entrepreneurs with select West Michigan buyers in its first Meet the Buyer event Tuesday.

Buyers from Bissell Homecare Inc., Cascade Engineering, the city of Grand Rapids, CSM Group, Erhardt Construction, Grand Valley State University, Kellogg Co., Haworth Inc. and Van Andel Institute will be on hand to network with the diverse suppliers.

Chamber officials said the program is designed to connect racial and ethnic minority, women, veterans and LGBT entrepreneurs with corporate buyers — and vice versa.

“We’ve had a number of our corporate members who have supplier diversity goals, and as we were talking to them, they were looking to us to help connect them with businesses that they’re unfamiliar with, or to help increase the vendor base,” said Janet Wyllie, the chamber’s vice president of business growth.

In previous years, the GRACC held a minority business showcase, but this year decided to expand the program to focus on facilitating conversations between diverse vendors and corporate buyers.

Wyllie said the increase in supplier diversity initiatives and expansion to include veteran certification programs and disabled service veterans helped to spur the change in the program.

As of early last week, between 15 and 20 vendors had signed up to meet with potential corporate business partners. Vendors not only will have the opportunity to connect with buyers for immediate business, but also to build a relationship that could be beneficial down the line and learn more about how to develop a partnership with corporate buyers.

“As businesses continue to grow and expand, supplier diversity programs will start to be engaged and grow the capacity of smaller business,” Wyllie said. “And through the program, our hope is that (these smaller businesses) will be more qualified to take on some of the contracts that these larger corporations have to offer.”

The event is from 2-5 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 10, in the Donnelly Center at Aquinas College. Admission for suppliers is free; buyers may participate for a $50 fee.

Vendors and buyers can register at grandrapids.org/meet-the-buyer.

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