By Patricia Guadalupe
January/February 2001 - In an effort to better serve one of the nation's hottest business sectors, Minneapolis-based Diversity Information Resources Co. (DIR) –- formerly known as TRY US Resources –- has made its information on minority and women-owned companies available online.
"We want to provide our customers with the most accurate and up-to-date information on minority- and women-owned business enterprises," says executive director Leslie Bonds. "An Internet-based information database will allow continuous supplier updates and assist e-procurement programs."
The database includes information on more than 7,000 certified minority-owned firms and 1,800 women-owned businesses that engage in regional or national sales activities.
Diversity Information Resources' antecedent was founded in 1969 by Peter and Rose Meyerhoff, Holocaust survivors who started the company to help advance diversity and foster understanding among all racial and ethnic groups. That year's first directory began as a list of African-American-owned businesses in the area. It has grown into the National Minority Business Directory, with more than 7,000 national and regional companies.
The guides include company contact information, Web-site addresses, the products and services each company provides, annual sales, and the type of minority certification it has received. The information is divided by state and by subject material, such as "chemicals." The directory also provides key words to facilitate quick online searches.
The company's other publications include the Minority Business Information Resources Directory and the Purchasing People in Major Corporations guide.
Those publications offer information ranging from legislative directives affecting minority business programs to addresses and contacts for obtaining loans. DIR contacts the companies frequently to ensure that current information is provided. According to the company, as much as 80 percent of the provided information can change each year.
Minority-owned firms have grown at an extremely rapid pace in recent years. In the last five years alone, their numbers have increased 68 percent to more than 3 million, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Hispanic-owned companies comprise the largest sub-sector, with almost $200 billion in annual sales. While women-owned businesses continue to face formidable obstacles, such as obtaining venture capital financing, their total number is growing at almost twice the rate of companies started by men.
Servicing those businesses is a growing cottage industry, with companies such as DIR providing comprehensive information for and about the sector.
The group's board of directors includes representatives from major corporations – including AT&T, Ford Motor Co., SBC Communications Inc., Lucent Technologies, DaimlerChrysler, Pepsi-Cola, Philip Morris, Procter & Gamble, Coors Brewing, Xerox, and the United Parcel Service – who have contributed to the development of the Internet database.
DaimlerChrysler, for example, recently formed a minority enterprise development program to help expand the number of minority-owned suppliers it works with. In partnership with Comerica Bank and ASG Renaissance, the automotive giant conducted studies of several minority-owned suppliers selected for the program and now assigns an executive mentoring team to the selected companies to assist with financial and other needs.
DIR also sponsors a number of national supplier diversity seminars, which include programs such as "enhancing and establishing" minority- and women-owned supplier programs and a "practitioner's approach to effectively managing" women- and minority-owned businesses.
For more information on Diversity Information Resources and its services, including the guides, visit the company's Web site at www.diversityinforesources.com, which provides a well-organized array of topics. Among other things, the site offers a directory-listing application (listings are free to suppliers), information on upcoming seminars, and technical support.
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