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Glen Taylor

Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

Taylor teams with minority suppliers

  • Article by: DEE DePASS
  • Star Tribune
  • April 29, 2012 - 11:38 AM

Glen Taylor's Mankato-based company is the latest high-profile Minnesota firm to join forces with minority suppliers to support capable entrepreneurs of color.

Taylor, who owns the Timberwolves and Lynx, and the printing and marketing firm Taylor Corp., where he is CEO, will be the keynote speaker Thursday when the Midwest Minority Supplier Development Council (MMSDC) holds its annual meeting.

The council aims to help both small and large companies forge profitable alliances while also enhancing the expertise of minority entrepreneurs. And because businesses of color are more likely to hire minority workers, such partnerships are seen as one way to reduce high unemployment rates among black, Hispanic and American Indian job seekers.

MMSDC members already include about 100 heavyweights of the business world such as General Mills, Xcel Energy, 3M, Target, Mayo Clinic, Hormel Foods, Cargill, Best Buy and Medtronic, as well as about 300 minority-owned businesses that collectively employ 37,283 workers and generate $1.2 billion in annual revenue.

Taylor Corp. joined the MMSDC in January.

"We are really excited about the opportunity to have a billionaire speak to us and tell us his rags-to-riches story, so our minority entrepreneurs can learn from that, and connect with our other corporate members and do business," said MMSDC President Duane Ramseur. About 500 corporate officials, business owners, bankers and community leaders are expected at the event at the Golden Valley Country Club.

Jay Parker, Taylor Corporation's vice president of procurement, said the arrangement could expand Taylor's supplier pool and help it find qualified and certified minority owners who have innovative products. That is sometimes difficult to do "and we are joining [MMSDC] in an effort to figure that out. We are learning as we go," Parker said.

MMSDC members said the partnership should create new cross-selling opportunities to customers of both Taylor Corp. and smaller MMSDC members. It's a model that's proven successful in the past.

A win-win

By combining efforts, large companies diversify their supply chains and get access to smaller, nimble firms that they may not have known previously. At the same time, minority businesses gain bidding and mentoring opportunities that often boost sales growth and hiring. The large and small business partners often share customers and assign each other jobs that are too large or too small for one of the partners.

Jon Otto, CEO and the Indian owner of Brooklyn-Park based Visions Inc., is an MMSDC member. A year ago, his printing firm became Taylor Corp.'s protege and business partner. The partnership helped Taylor secure about $800,000 in printing and direct-marketing contracts that were too large for the 90-employee Visions Inc.

Visions secured about $800,000 in business from Taylor customers who had jobs too small for the Mankato-based firm. Otto said Taylor Corp. is also mentoring the smaller company to secure its industry ISO certification, saving Visions $100,000 in consulting and auditing costs.

The relationship "helps them because we are in markets that they are not in and [vice versa] .... It's a two-way street," Otto said.

Some of MMSDC's minority-owned businesses are sizable construction firms such as Shaw-Lundquist Associates Inc. in Eagan and Thor Construction Inc. in Columbia Heights.

Others include Excelsior-based energy management firm J-I-T Services Inc.; Eden Prairie-based engineering and surveying firm EVS; precision machining firm Wells Technology Inc. in Bemidji; and Baxter-based DECO Inc., which specializes in security system installations and electrical construction.

Federal government efforts

MMSDC's minority-owned business members come in all sizes but 60 percent generate more than $1 million in annual revenues. Several generate more than $500 million a year.

The Obama administration and the U.S. Department of Commerce have launched several efforts to foster minority-owned businesses and address the higher unemployment rates for minorities.

In November, the Commerce Department opened a Minority Business Development Agency in Minneapolis, under the guidance of MMSDC's sister organization -- the Metropolitan Economic Development Agency (MEDA). Its goal is to assist businesses so they can procure $30 million in annual contracts and capital and hundreds of jobs over five years.

Such supplier initiatives align nicely with the MMSDC mission, Taylor officials said.

"When you do a membership with an organization like this, it's not just pay your membership dues and show up at meetings,'' said Parker. "It's a commitment in both time, resources, executive time, money and those sorts of things. You don't do it half-heartedly if you are going to do it."

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725

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