Kaine Sets Targets for Vendor Diversity at U.Va. Forum

October 31, 2006
Oct. 31, 2006 -- Speaking at the University of Virginia last week, Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine stressed his administration’s commitment to increasing business with small, minority and women-owned businesses.

Addressing women and minority business people and representatives from several state agencies who had gathered in the Newcomb Hall Ballroom on Thursday for the Governor’s SWAM Financial Services Forum, Kaine said he would consider it “a personal failure” if the state did not increase its procurement from small businesses to 40 percent by the end of his term in 2009.

“This is important to anyone who wants to do business with the commonwealth,” Kaine said, noting that a study commissioned by former Gov. Mark R. Warner found that only about one-half of 1 percent of state business had been going to small, minority and women-owned businesses. In a commonwealth, he said, “we’re all in this together, and it’s important that opportunities are open to all.”

The forum, which was hosted by U.Va. at the governor’s request, was coordinated with the Department of Business Assistance and featured financial service vendors from around the state. Previous forums had been held for construction and professional services vendors.

“In the last 15 years that I've been involved with supplier diversity as a business owner and now director of supplier diversity, this is probably the most significant event I've seen with regards to the number of top state agency officials in attendance,” said U.Va.’s William Cooper.

 “Out of a crowd of about 130, there was almost a one-to-one ratio of agency representatives to vendors.”

Kaine’s management philosophy centers around setting goals and establishing relationships. “We can’t accomplish our goals without teamwork,” he said.

While admitting a 40 percent procurement target is an “enormous leap,” Kaine wants to be “extremely aggressive” in setting goals.

“I want them to gasp, without making them faint,” he said of people’s reaction to his goals.
The University has set similar goals for fiscal year 2006, seeking to send 2.1 percent of its business to minority-owned businesses, 4.3 percent to women-owned business and 34.9 percent to small businesses. In one week in August, U.Va. awarded over $1 million in contracts to women- and minority-owned businesses.

Kaine wants to help agencies with minority purchasing, including creating better job tracking so that work by small and minority subcontractors is counted as part of the initiative.

He promised consequences for agencies not meeting his procurement goals. He gets frequent reports on agencies’ compliance, and Kaine said some people have been removed for not pursuing this priority.

“Openness and inclusion is something about which I am passionate,” Kaine said.