Renée M. Galloway knows how important it is to connect minority-, women- and veteran-owned small businesses with Pitt, so that they can become service suppliers to the University.
“Supplier diversity is really called corporate social responsibility,” said Galloway, supplier diversity and sustainability coordinator for Panther Express in Pitt’s purchasing department for the last 12 years. “An organization’s supply base should be representative of their community. If diversity is important in staff, faculty and students, it also should be important in your supply base.”
To create a more diverse supplier pool and support more local businesses, Galloway has been organizing a series of matchmaking events that bring representatives of smaller companies to campus. These sessions introduce key University staff members to vendors who haven’t yet established a relationship with Pitt but who have valuable services to offer. Galloway explained that because purchasing is decentralized at the University, it is sometimes hard for smaller businesses to get that initial introduction — or even understand whom they need to meet.
Following earlier matchmaking events for construction and information technology vendors, the latest session was held April 16 for printing services. More than 30 Pitt staff members with purchasing power for their offices gathered at the University Club to discover what seven printers from surrounding neighborhoods and towns had to offer.
“Pitt is a huge part of the city and we’d love to be able to partner with them and do new business,” said Blayre I. Britton of CDI Printing of Gibsonia, as a trio of Pitt staff members approached her booth for information.
Ronne Wright, president of Wright Business Systems of Valencia (just over the Allegheny County line in Butler), said her company can get lost at other vendor fairs, among so many different businesses and buyers. On the table before her were samples of everything Wright can do, from brochures, newsletters and catalogs to apparel, packaging and awards.
“It’s hard to get into big corporations,” she said. She also noted that, even if her company qualifies as a diverse vendor, it still has to be top notch to work with Pitt: “Having this women-owned or minority-owned business gets your foot in the door, but your price still has to be good, your quality still has to be good.”
As Kathy W. Humphrey, senior vice chancellor for engagement and secretary of the Board of Trustees, remarked in her welcome at the event: “We are in many ways a city within a city … filled with many, many opportunities, and we are always open. We are committed to making sure that our University is a place for the world we live in, and it is reflective of that world.”
Humphrey said that her hope for the event was that it “opens a new opportunity, a new door,” for the attending businesses to work with Pitt.
Diverse Suppliers a Long-Term Pitt Goal
Galloway emphasized that the purchasing department is aiming for “a more targeted approach” to seeking supplier diversity in 2018. In engaging with potential suppliers, her overall responsibility is “to help them navigate around the University and help them understand how the University works for procurement.”
Her work has led the University to a nearly 10 percent average of minority-, women- and veteran-owned suppliers across the last five years. Galloway calls herself “a proud Pitt graduate of the School of Education,” with an Ed.D. degree earned in 2008, who has been a staff member here for 17 years.
She takes her message across campus and throughout the Western Pennsylvania region, speaking annually, for instance, at the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence conference about the best ways to do business with Pitt. She helps to represent Pitt at matchmaking events held by other organizations, such as UPMC.
She also is a member of the certification committee of the Eastern Minority Supplier Development Council, which assesses companies’ qualifications as minority-owned businesses so that individual organizations, including the University of Pittsburgh, do not have to undertake this task themselves.
Aiding the economic development of the region and making diversity a core value of the University are two goals of “The Plan for Pitt,” she added. The April 16 matchmaking event has already resulted in scheduled appointments at Pitt for several of the participating businesses, she reported.
And as a result of the previous two matchmaking sessions, other local companies have become University suppliers, she said.
“We have a responsibility to support our neighboring communities,” Galloway said. “With the University being so large and spread out, making these targeted connections really helps these small businesses.”