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Diverse Business Partners
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Diverse Business Partners

MLB hosts seminar for Native American business owners

DBP gives minority businesses chance to get in the game
06/16/2004

NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball hosted a networking workshop at its central office for Native American business owners on Wednesday, June 16, giving them tips on how to successfully develop business relationships with MLB and other large corporations.

The workshop was part of the four-city "How-To" Business Networking Series, organized by UIDA Business Services and the IBM corporation.

UIDA Business Services, a Native American Procurement & Technical Assistance Center, was founded in 2000 to assist Native Americans develop businesses, achieve self-sufficiency and provide government bid leads to its clients. It is one of 84 nationwide centers funded in part by the United States Department of Defense and one of three centers that assist only Native American clients. The centers are located in Lockheed Martin facilities in Marietta, Ga., covering all states east of the Mississippi, with primary emphasis on those states containing Federal Reservations.

MLB's Wendy Lewis, who is Vice President of Strategic Planning for Recruitment and Diversity, said MLB offered to host the New York workshop to learn more about the Native American business community in the region.

"It's a national conference that travels regionally and the idea behind that is you have to get closer to where the businesses are sitting," said Lewis. "This group [of businesses] is pretty representative of the Tri-State area. This [workshop] has been the outcome of a conversation with IBM from the supplier diversity perspective."

IBM, MLB and the other corporations at the workshop are working to diversify relationships with suppliers -- companies who provide services and products to the corporations, in MLB's case, everything from ballpark food to office supplies to cleaning services.

At the How-To workshop, MLB and the other corporations, including IBM, JP Morgan Chase and NBC Universal, and governmental agencies, such as General Services Administration and the U.S. Small Business Administration, gave presentations to Native American business owners on how they can do business with their organizations.

In addition to New York, the workshop was given in Atlanta, Ga., Rochester, Minn. and Charlotte, NC. Lewis spoke to the small business owners about MLB's Diverse Partners Program, which works to increase opportunities for minorities and women in developing business relationships with MLB.

"My expectations [of the How-To workshop] are two-fold: That the companies visiting with us today realize that Major League Baseball is very serious about inclusion in how we do business," Lewis said. "The second objective... was not only conversation, but education -- I learned a tremendous amount of how the Native American enterprise system works and how it doesn't work.

"I think it's going to make me much more intelligent, make better decisions for baseball, but also in a way that's more understanding and more accommodating to the Native business person."

In 1998 MLB Commissioner Bud Selig authorized the establishment of the DBP program. Since then MLB has spent more than $300 million with minority and women-owned businesses, making DBP the sports industry's leading program.

Lewis said she hoped the Native American business owners would be encouraged by the opportunities available to them in baseball.

"We want to get the word out because we know that there is opportunity for us to do business with Native business, and for Native business to benefit from a relationship with baseball," she said.

The small business owners were excited to hear about how their companies could go about obtaining contracts with MLB and the other major corporations.

The range of services and products supplied by the Native American companies attending the workshop included: photography, printing, information technology, cleaning services, general construction, IT network solutions, environmental services, graphic design, creative advertising, janitorial services, carpet cleaning, IT security and network support services.

Jeff Burby, who owns Simply Clean, a janitorial and carpet cleaning business in Portland, ME, was interested in further developing the geographical range of his company's services.

"I was hoping to gain some information on possibly gaining some future contracts with any of these larger companies, the Maine market is pretty small so we're looking to expand into the southern New England area," said Burby. "I'd love to [work with MLB], I think it would be a great opportunity. I think I could bring a few things to Major League Baseball."

John Nikolatos, president of Niktek Systems Integration in Milford, CT, was interested in learning how his company, which focuses on computer integration systems, communications, internet access and security could get involved with the corporations at the workshop.

"I just wanted to find out more about the opportunities I can have as a Native American and a business owner, just to learn about the process of trying to get contracts and make contacts for future business," said Nikolatos. "The presentation was very good and it's actually exciting just to walk into the [MLB office] building -- you see [baseball] on TV, you watch the games and then you come in here, it's a pretty cool feeling."

The workshop was a chance not only for small business owners to learn how to begin working with major corporations, but for the large companies to connect and discuss their supplier diversity strategies.

JP Morgan Chase has an extensively developed supplier diversity program that many corporations hope to model in the future. Harvey Butler, VP and Director of Supplier Diversity for JP Morgan Chase, said sharing ideas among companies is an important part of improving diversity initiatives.

"That's what being in this supplier diversity network is all about, learning from one another, picking the best practices that you see and pulling them in," said Butler. "I'd like to take credit for everything that I do, but it's not true. Sometimes I'll see something done by someone else and I'll either emulate it or retrofit it so that it fits specifically inside our organization."

Even though Butler's banking industry is different than the way the sports industry works, he said there are still ways the industries can mutually benefit each other.

"There are many transferable processes that are out there that can be transferred from the auto industry into the banking industry, into the airline industry.. and the baseball industry," he said.

Lewis said hearing from the other corporations and the small businesses was very helpful and will further develop MLB's DBP program.

"I've gotten more strategy, ideals and solutions than I would have thought I was going to get," Lewis said. "I think it's just been a good investment for us to do the [How-To workshop] program.

"We have met some very key players in the folks that know what's going on, are making great determinations about the whole landscape of business from the Native American perspective, and I think we're going to really benefit from it."

For more information on UIDA Business Services and the How-To workshop series, please visit www.uida.org. For more on MLB's Diverse Business Partners program, please go to www.mlb.com/dbp or send an email to: dbp@mlb.com.

Christie Cowles is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.