Responding to a challenge issued last year by Mayor Randall L. Woodfin, 10 Birmingham companies and institutions on Friday released a report that discloses their record of hiring minority and female vendors.
The report is tied to a city initiative called VITAL, or Valuing Inclusion to Accelerate and Lift, and the goal is to be transparent about how much business is currently going to diverse vendors and suppliers, and to create a baseline for future efforts to improve those results.
The 10 entities included Alabama Power, Birmingham Business Journal, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, Hoar Construction, Mayer, Protective Life Corp., Regions Financial Corp., Shipt, The University of Alabama at Birmingham and The World Games 2022.
Their collective report for 2020 reflected $663.05 million in spending with minority, woman-owned and other disadvantaged businesses. That makes up 12 percent of what they identified as a total available spend of $5.72 billion.
“I applaud the businesses and institutions that had the courage to take this journey with us,” Woodfin said. “These reports give us an honest foundation that we can build on to create a better future with opportunity for all.”
The city, whose report followed a somewhat different format, reflected spending of $24.3 million to minority- or woman-owned firms in 2020. That represented 10 percent of the city’s total payment to vendors.
“We can only improve from here because once we share where we are, once we communicate where we are, we tell people where we want to go and then you do everything intentionally designed to get there,” Woodfin said about the city’s data. “You can’t be afraid of those low numbers because prior to this, we didn’t know where the numbers were but now that we know, it is clear what we must do to be better and get better and own what you say and where you want to be.”
The Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA), which is helping the city lead the VITAL initiative, said the diverse spend reports are the first step in a strategic and deliberate effort to build a more inclusive economy.
Moving forward, the BBA will convene an Inclusive Procurement Roundtable where companies can share best practices to increase opportunities for diverse and disadvantaged firms. Key components will include programs, strategies and resources to promote the success of minority and woman-owned businesses.
“Creating a more inclusive procurement process is not just about improving the fortunes of minority- and woman-owned businesses,” said Victor Brown, vice president of business development at the BBA. “Our entire economy benefits when we expand opportunities, build a stronger middle class, and strengthen the tax base.”
The city of Birmingham will work to expand opportunities by improving its vendor registration process, creating a database of diverse vendors, and publishing an annual purchasing forecast that alerts all vendors to potential opportunities to sell goods and services to the city.
“We know where we are, and we know where we want to go,” said Cornell Wesley, the director of the city’s Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity. “The path forward will be both data-driven and deliberate, and our goal is clear: to use the city’s purchasing power to support a more inclusive economy, accelerate opportunity and uplift local businesses whose success is vital for our future.”
Other companies are invited and encouraged to join the VITAL pledge. For more information, contact Victor Brown at the BBA at firstname.lastname@example.org.