University of Virginia Tops State Goals for Purchasing from Women, Minorities

September 18, 2008

September 18, 2008 — The University of Virginia has surpassed the state's guidelines for purchasing from small, women-owned and minority-owned businesses.

In fiscal year 2008, which ended June 30, the University spent 42.5 percent of its discretionary budget on goods and services from so-called "SWaM" firms, according to Bill Cooper, director of supplier diversity for U.Va.

Gov. Tim Kaine had called for state agencies to spend 40 percent of their discretionary funds with such businesses.

The University spent $11.6 million with minority businesses, a jump from $7.1 million spent the previous fiscal year. Money spent with women-owned businesses was $14.4 million, up from $13.4 million in fiscal 2007. The University's overall discretionary spending increased from $261.7 million in 2006 to $370.7 million in 2008. The figures do not include the U.Va. Health System.

Discretionary funds are spent with vendors the University chooses. They do not include salaries, rents, leases or "sole source" purchases, which are goods and services that are available only through a single vendor.

Two years ago, the University did just 23.9 percent of its business with SWaM firms. Cooper said important elements in the improvement have included building and maintaining long-term relationships with SWaM firms, working with suppliers on business development and sharing information.

"It's not easy to do business with the University of Virginia," he said. "Because of the amount of money we spend, we demand the best."

U.Va. works directly with its vendors and also through organizations such as the Virginia Association of State College and University Purchasing Professionals to help coordinate supplier development.

Dan Goff of A. Goff Transportation, which provides charter transportation services, praised Cooper for working with the businesses.

"Bill helped us groom the business to fit what U.Va. wanted," he said. "Bill's encouragement got us to be a better business."

Dan and his wife, Ana Regina, who owns the business, started it in a back room of their house eight years ago. He said working with the University has transformed the firm; it now has offices in Charlottesville, Richmond, Lexington and Virginia Beach. Goff's  annual revenue has jumped from $300,000 to about $3 million, and it has nearly 100 employees.

Cooper encouraged the Goffs to obtain SWaM certification, which Goff said helped them in networking and getting business in other places.

Last year, the University coordinated and hosted "SWaMFest 3," which focused on the building trades. It drew some 350 vendors, majority contractors and purchasing officers to the John Paul Jones Arena. This year's SWaMFest will be held at Old Dominion University.

The University has worked at promoting supplier diversity in all three divisions of the University —Academic, Health System and the College at Wise

In fiscal 2007, U.Va. received Governor's "SWaM Awards" for Outstanding Leadership in Supplier Diversity and for Innovation — the only state institution to earn two governor's awards. U.Va. also won the Soaring Eagle Award for the Public Sector from the Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council.

— By Matt Kelly