Conference speaker says diversity impacts bottom line

Alex Tittle, Equity Director for the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, talks about small business opportunities with U.S. Bank Stadium and Super Bowl LII during the Supplier Diversity Summit and Business Expo on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016, at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.
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Growing up in Louisiana did not prepare Toni Adafin for following her children to hockey rinks.

"It's too cold. Anybody in their right mind would know not to go where it's too cold," she told more than 300 people gathered for Rochester's Supplier Diversity Summit at the Mayo Civic Center.

The event was sponsored by Mayo Clinic, the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, Destination Medical Center, the Diversity Council and the City of Rochester. More than 300 people attended.

Adafin, senior software development manager of Cloud Managed Services for IBM Rochester, was the keynote speaker. She told the chuckling audience that she eventually accepted hockey and learned to enjoy it, though she wasn't unhappy that her sons played only one season.

"It's amazing what you can do when you open up," she said.


Opening up to new options makes businesses and communities stronger, just as it does individuals, Adafin said. That's why reaching out to businesses owned by people of color, women and military veterans as potential suppliers is more than just the compassionate thing to do.

"When used in business, diversity really impacts the bottom line," she said. "Diversity is our cornerstone to success."

Mayo Clinic agrees with that. It originally began work on diversifying its suppliers in 2011, but Mayo Clinic really ramped up its efforts in 2015 with the help of the Rochester Chamber. That led to a diverse supplier summit and expo event that was attended by more than 400 people. Wednesday's "Power of Diversity" conference is the second of what organizers hope will become an annual event.

The efforts are starting show signs of working. Mayo Clinic spent $526 million with more than 6,000 diverse- and small-business enterprises in 2015. That was an increase from $410 million in 2014. The diverse supplier program does not apply to Mayo Clinic's drug purchases, which accounts for an estimated one-third of its overall supply expenses.

Reaching out to diverse suppliers is helping keep more of Mayo Clinic's money in the Rochester area. Its "diverse spend" in Rochester, which Mayo began tracking in 2014, increased by $4 million in 2015. Statewide, it increased by $89 million.

"Although it is sometimes overlooked, Rochester is a diverse community, and Mayo Clinic recognizes the importance of being representative of that diversity in all of its core areas," stated Fred Wills, the administrator of Mayo Clinic's Office of Diversity and Inclusion, in a written announcement about the event. "Inclusionary practices and policies strengthen our bond with the community."

One example of a Rochester business chosen by Mayo Clinic under this new program is Global Employment Solutions Inc. The 17-year-old staffing firm landed a contract in 2014 and recently started 11 employees working in administrative and non-clinical positions, such as data entry and customer support, at Mayo Clinic.

Some of that local diverse spend can also be attributed to longtime Mayo suppliers, like Custom Alarm and Xylo Technologies. While both have worked with Mayo Clinic for years, they recently became certified as diverse-owned businesses.


"We look at suppliers to find best option and best solution at the best price. That often means, increasingly, looking beyond the usual suspects. It's a win-win-win for Mayo Clinic," said Dr. Sharonne Hayes, Mayo Clinic's Director of Diversity and Inclusion.

Joe Powers of Powers Ventures and the Canadian Honker restaurant. The Rochester restaurateur and caterer was honored at the event for his employment of minority and disabled employees.

At the podium, Powers told the story of how his staff hired an autistic young man, who had never held a job, as new employee.

"He was the first employee to ever send me a picture of his first paycheck, his first paycheck at 18 years old," he told the crowd.

Powers has never regretted hiring that man, who was named Powers Ventures' "Employee of the Year" in 2015.

He urged the business owners in the audience to "To get on board (with diversity) or miss out."

08-03 diversity summit 05.jpg
Alex Tittle, Equity Director for the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, talks about small business opportunities with U.S. Bank Stadium and Super Bowl LII during the Supplier Diversity Summit and Business Expo on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016, at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.

Related Topics: MAYO CLINIC
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