USF Moving Needle Forward on Supplier Diversity
– Tom Woolf | USF News
To Terrie Daniel, no purchase is too small when it comes to enhancing supplier diversity at USF.
“We tell everyone who has purchasing authority on behalf of the university that whether they are making a $1 purchase or $100 million, it matters because it all helps move the needle forward,” says USF’s assistant vice president of supplier diversity. “A lot of the people making purchases feel like ‘I’m only buying $50 worth of office supplies,’ but if you’ve got 200 individuals spending $50 on a monthly basis, that adds up pretty quickly.”
Daniel joined USF in 2017 after leading supplier diversity efforts for the state of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis. Together with her three-member team, she focuses on ensuring that minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses can benefit from opportunities available at the university through outreach across USF’s three campuses and throughout the Tampa Bay region.
Specifically, the Office of Supplier Diversity works with all USF purchasing agents, departmental buyers and facilities to monitor, implement, track progress and make adjustments to the university’s diverse business utilization strategic plan.
“We pull together listings of capable suppliers we can use across the university, such as for janitorial supplies, landscaping, construction, USF Health initiatives and research initiatives,” Daniel says. “There are suppliers in a wide variety of areas that can support the business functions of the university.”
A primary emphasis of Daniel’s office is helping suppliers understand the way USF does business.
“We’ve created a lot of educational tools and content to communicate USF’s requirements to suppliers,” she says.
As one example, she cited a Business Empowerment Series her office launched last year that helps diverse suppliers learn about bidding, bonding and insurance, marketing strategies, health and wellness, finances and taxes, and human resources.
“It’s really important that we educate our suppliers so they have success bidding our jobs,” Daniel said. “We are trying to identify barriers that we can break down as an organization to help businesses have a lot more access to what we are doing from a contractual perspective.”
She noted that in the past two years, USF has awarded more than $115 million in contracts to businesses that are partnered with Black-owned firms. Those contracts include the new residence hall that opened recently on the St. Petersburg campus, Osprey Suites, and the Judy Genshaft Honors College building planned for the Tampa campus.
Another challenge is helping diverse suppliers learn of business opportunities not only at USF, but throughout the region.
“We send weekly e-blasts to our vendor database because we want them to know what the current opportunities are,” Daniel says. “We also partner with a lot of other organizations across Tampa Bay so they know about other opportunities as well. For example, Moffitt Cancer Center is building new facilities and we wanted to make sure our suppliers knew about that, so we help them by advertising those opportunities as well.”
In a letter to Daniel last month, USF President Steven Currall noted the “outstanding work” by her and her team.
“The University of South Florida is one of the largest economic drivers in the Tampa Bay region and we have a responsibility to support the diverse business community,” Currall wrote. “We have aimed to lead, and we now seek to also further elevate supplier diversity.”
He listed a series of near-, medium- and longer-term policy changes and initiatives designed to enhance supplier diversity. They include a code of conduct for all employees with purchasing authority that will establish “vision and a clear understanding of expectations for faculty, staff and administration surrounding supplier diversity.”
In an effort “to achieve significant diverse business utilization in second-tier contracting during both design and construction phases,” project contractors will have to submit a Diverse Business Utilization Plan outlining their commitment to utilizing diverse suppliers on major construction projects (those in excess of $4 million).
Among other actions outlined in his letter, Currall said that USF vice presidents and college deans will be held accountable “for additional progress on supplier diversity.”
“Diversity is one of this university’s greatest strengths, and diverse business ownership is essential to further our community’s economic growth and success,” Currall wrote.