Governor Wes Moore speaks to those gathered for the National Minority Supplier Development Council Annual Conference and Exchange in Baltimore. (AFRO Photo / Reuben Greene)

By Catherine Pugh,
Special to the AFRO

Governor Wes Moore recently greeted the over 6,000 participants of the National Minority Supplier Development Council Annual Conference and Exchange at the Baltimore Convention Center. The event took place from October 22-25, with the theme of “Closing the Equity Gap.”

“Maryland we don’t have to choose between an economy that is competitive and an economy that is equitable,” Moore told those in attendance, “We can, we will  and have done both.”

“We are going to build an economy that will not be able to be stopped…and we are going to build an economic state that will be second to none.  This is the moment for us to get this right,” said Moore. “Thank you for being the ones who are willing to be bold…because fortune favors the bold.” 

The choice of Baltimore as the conference was mainly guided by Sharon Pinder, president and CEO of the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council.  

“There are 22 other affiliates of the council,” Pinder pointed out, as leader of the Maryland D.C. and Northern Virginia affiliate. 

Pinder has led her region over the past eight years and says that her region is the largest in terms of density of minority businesses.    

Pinder also serves as the policy director on the national board of NMSDC. This year, she took 65 public and private sector leaders to Capitol Hill to share with congressional leaders their concerns– including their views on the recent Supreme Court decision that impacts affirmative action and the future of supplier diversity.

“This organization is over 50 years old and is still relevant because of discriminatory practices and racism,” said Pinder. “What does that say about us as a nation that this organization is still relevant?”

Governor Wes Moore speaks to those gathered for the National Minority Supplier Development Council Annual Conference and Exchange in Baltimore. (AFRO Photo / Reuben Greene)

Several workshops and gatherings took place during the convening including numerous exhibits. Speakers from across the country shared their views and conversations on how to create a more equitable economy including Exelon CEO Calvin Butler; Managing Director and Chief Impact Officer for Advantage Capital Sandra Moore; CEO and President of NMSDC Ying McGuire; Chief Diversity Officer for Chevron Josetta Jones; Dr. Heather Boushey, chief economist for the Invest in America cabinet at the White House, and Ed Gordon, an Emmy Award winning broadcaster.

Mayor Brandon M. Scott, along with United States Undersecretary of Commerce for Minority Business Development Donald R. Cravins Jr., hosted a roundtable discussion with the NMSDC in an effort to address challenges in creating equity for small minority and women-owned businesses.

“It was a privilege,” said Mayor Brandon Scott. “Our discussions were not just about recognizing our challenges, but to serve as a guiding light for fellow mayors seeking to foster similar conversations in their communities.”  

In leading the discussion,  Scott pointed to the fact that while mayor’s can now go directly to the federal government for assistance, there is no portal of distinction that allows them to be identified or note the relevance of their needs. 

“As mayors, we are entrusted with the responsibility to ensure that opportunities for economic success are accessible to all, regardless of their background.  This means addressing the challenges faced by minority and women-owned businesses, and actively working to create a level playing field,” said Mayor Scott.

The robust meeting continued with input from mayor’s from as far away as Florida, Missouri and Arkansas. McGuire acknowledged that mayors need to be given more consideration as leaders of their cities and civil rights leaders during the almost two-hour discussion.

Sharon Pinder said the work will continue. 

“We are looking forward to continuing those discussions at our next annual conference and exchange in Atlanta,”she said, adding that solutions are the ultimate goal.