Five Questions With: Carla Hunter Ramsey

Director of supplier diversity for National Grid talks about the company’s work with minority business owners. More

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Five Questions With: Carla Hunter Ramsey

"Minority and women-owned companies, or diverse companies, tend to be smaller businesses and the ones we do business with are generally located in National Grid's service territory."
Posted 7/8/14

Carla Hunter Ramsey is director of supplier diversity for National Grid in the U.S. She is based in Hicksville, N.Y. and works in National Grid’s jurisdictions in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York.

She has more than 20 years of experience in procurement, including the position of director of purchasing, contracts and property management at York College of the City University of New York.

She has also overseen procurement for The New School in New York City, which included the purchase of goods and services for nine different colleges.

She has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Queens College and an executive master’s degree in public administration from Baruch College of the City University of New York.

PBN: National Grid was named the Local Corporation of the Year for 2014 by the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council in May. That award is based on considerations that include total spending with certified Minority Business Enterprises, senior executive support for supplier diversity and activities to provide opportunities and information to certified Minority Business Enterprises. Are there financial benefits to developing this minority supply chain?

HUNTER RAMSEY: Minority purchasing power is expected to rise from approximately 20 percent of the total U.S. purchasing power, or $6.5 billion in 2000, to over 45 percent by the year 2045. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce this trend is expected to continue, with minority purchasing power surpassing $2 trillion by 2015 and $3 trillion by 2030. When you consider these statistics, it is a business imperative to strategically support a minority supply chain.

PBN: Do you see this increasing minority supply chain as beneficial to National Grid's bottom line?

HUNTER RAMSEY: The jurisdictions that National Grid resides in are largely diverse and the percentage of minority owned businesses are growing at an unprecedented rate. Minority and women- owned companies, or diverse companies, tend to be smaller businesses and the ones we do business with are generally located in National Grid's service territory. They employ people and operate facilities within our service territory. A portion of what National Grid spends with these diverse companies directly returns to the company in gas and electric service charges for their facilities. Another portion goes toward employing people who live in our service territory and thus buy their electricity and gas from National Grid. The conclusion is that a dollar spent by National Grid within its own service territory is more likely to return to National Grid in the form of electric and gas revenues.

PBN: Will chief financial officers have to do more complex Requests For Proposals or bookkeeping to work with minority suppliers, if there are federal guidelines to be considered?

HUNTER RAMSEY: No. National Grid is a federal contractor that follows federal guidelines under General Services Administration’s Small Business Program. As a result, the procurement operation currently integrates supplier diversity in its RFPs and yielded unprecedented success for National Grid’ supplier diversity program over the last five years.

PBN: How is the corporate CFO involved in developing this minority supply chain?

HUNTER RAMSEY: Approximately six million minority-owned businesses in the U.S. generate more than $1 trillion in gross receipts annually. The corporate CFO has a key role in ensuring the organization includes in its strategic plan the use of minority-owned firms in its supply chain. The purchasing power of the minority business community has a direct impact on our economy through job creation and economic development. Forward-thinking corporate CFO’s realize the benefit of an innovative minority supply chain to unlock new markets to source goods, thereby creating an increasingly competitive marketplace.

PBN: How long has National Grid had this as a goal and how does this impact the Rhode Island economy?

HUNTER RAMSEY: National Grid has had its supplier diversity program for as long as it has been a federal contractor. The goal to reach 40 percent for all for diversity spending was developed in 2012 and Rhode Island is an important contributor to that goal.

Small businesses play a critical role in the health of Rhode Island’s economy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, in 2010 there were more than 95,000 small businesses in the state, representing more than 95 percent of all employers, and employing more than 55 percent of the private-sector labor force. In addition, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2007 Survey of Business Owners, there were more than 11,000 minority-owned businesses in Rhode Island.

We understand there are significant opportunities to increase diversity spending in Rhode Island. However, there are skill gaps that must be minimized to successfully secure a contract with National Grid. As a result, last month National Grid collaborated with Roger Williams University to establish the first of its kind “CEO Master Series” for diverse suppliers to attend and obtain the required skills to perform under a National Grid contract. We are confident that the success of this collaboration, along with the increased focus on driving diversity spend in Rhode Island, will have an impact on the economic development within the state.

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