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AIM Begins Initiative to Support Minority Business Enterprises

Posted on March 28, 2022

Marianne Lancaster has been running Lancaster Packaging in Hudson for 33 years, but it took only a few months of participating in a new Associated Industries of Massachusetts inclusive procurement initiative to make contact with two AIM members interested in her company’s integrated supply chain service solutions.

Lancaster has developed business connections with both Chase Corporation of Westwood and Joseph Abboud Manufacturing Company in New Bedford. No deals have been completed yet, but Lancaster says the new AIM Business Connect has allowed her to explore the value her company might provide to the two fellow AIM members.

“It’s very exciting,” said Lancaster, who participated in the pilot phase of the project.

“These meetings are valuable in creating a strategic plan on how we transition in. We have to do the work to see if there is value on both sides.”

AIM formally launched AIM Business Connect yesterday at an Executive Forum that drew more than 300 chief executives, minority business owners and procurement representatives. The initiative is intended to spur the economy by connecting Black- and Brown-owned and led Massachusetts businesses with AIM-member companies looking to diversify their supply chains.

John Regan, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM, said the effort grows out of the association’s commitment following the 2020 murder of George Floyd to support business owned and operated by people of color.

“We are calling this AIM Business Connect because its goal is to connect minority-owned and run businesses with companies that want to diversify their purchasing spend. Although initially focused on Black and Brown-led and owned businesses, we will expand to  connect companies with one another- this name will grow with our initiative to serve a broader group of our member companies – women-owned businesses, LGBTQ+, veterans, disabled, and all communities,” Regan said.

He also cautioned: “Make no mistake, this is hard work. And we are still learning.”

A panel of business leaders and Executive Forum audience members agreed. Successful inclusive procurement, they said, requires commitment from corporate leaders and the ability to overcome risk aversion among purchasing departments that may be hesitant to do business with vendors with which they are unfamiliar.

“You need to set goals and need to hold people accountable for those goals…Let’s stop talking and start spending,” implored Peter Hurst, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Great New England Supplier Development Council.

Quincy Miller, President of Eastern Bank, said his institution combed though reams of data on its spending patterns and concentrated its initial diversity efforts on bank divisions with the largest vendor spends.

He offered three key lessons from Eastern’s successful efforts to make its procurement inclusive:

  • Be willing to break up contracts. Taking a single contract and breaking it into three contracts creates opportunity for new partnerships.
  • Be willing to pay more so small suppliers can service contracts profitably. Companies might consider paying an additional 10,15 or 20 percent – though not 75 percent – to diversify their vendor base.
  • Be willing to do business with someone you don’t know and ensure that purchasing executives feel comfortable taking a chance with a new supplier.

Betty Francisco, Chief Executive Officer of the Boston Impact Initiative and Co-Founder of Amplify Latinx, urged companies to review the financial terms of contracts to improve access for the mostly smaller minority startup companies in which she invests. She agreed that CEOs committed to diversity must communicate that priority throughout their organizations.

“Commitment is at the top. Execution is in the middle,” Francisco told the Forum.

Regan urged all of AIM’s 3,400 member employers to participate in AIM Business Connect as a good business decision. He noted that an Accenture study found that 37 percent of consumers shifted spend away from companies that did not have diverse supplier bases and that the percentage increases to 50 percent with Gen Y and Z consumers.

“Participants in AIM Business Connect increase their customer base, raise their corporate profile and drives down their costs by widening the pool of potential suppliers,” he said.

Regan added: “One of the most important things we do for its members is connect them with the resources and the information they need to succeed.  In ABC we are specifically connecting MBEs to opportunities with our members who are committed to diversity and opportunity.”


Learn more about AIM Business Connect