News Column

Indiana City Helps Break Barriers

Oct. 9, 2012

Alice Culp

The city of South Bend will host the inaugural "Breaking Down Barriers Diversity Outreach Event," which is designed to help minority and women business owners find ways to potentially land more city contracts.

The event will be held from 8 to 11 a.m. Oct. 18 at Century Center, 120 S. Saint Joseph St., and it is open to all minority and women-owned businesses in St. Joseph County.

"The purpose of the event is twofold," said Tony Fitts, president of the Diversity Utilization Board, which is helping to organize the event.

First, he explained, the event will help the city be "more transparent about business opportunities for minority and women business owners."

But the main reason for the event is to introduce business owners to city departments that have buying ability and help them understand procurement requirements and necessities. Representatives from various city departments will be available to provide a list of projects and procurement goods and services generally purchased by the city of South Bend.

"It's basically a networking event," Fitts said.

In addition, interested business owners can talk to business certifying agencies about the process of certifying their business as a minority- or woman-owned business. These agencies include the state of Indiana, Indiana Minority Supplier Development Council and Women's Business Enterprise National Council. Attendees already certified with one of these agencies are encouraged to bring a copy of their current certification letter to the program.

"Unfortunately there are only 24 certified businesses with minority and women owners in the city," Fitts said. "In the county there are 35 to 37. We'd like to see more."

The diversity board plans to hold future events for this demographic in collaboration with other local groups such as the Women's Entrepreneurship Initiative at Saint Mary's College. One event that the board is considering is a bid workshop to help bidders fill out business documents correctly. Anyone who registers or attends this outreach event will be put on a contact list for future events.

"There are a lot of resources in the community and we are looking to collaborate with them or leverage what they are doing," Fitts said. "It is not just this one-time event. There are more coming."

To register

Registration is due Monday. Hard copies of the registration form are available at the City Clerk's Office, the Office of the Mayor and the Common Council's Office. People also can register by calling 574-235-6052 or e-mailing

To register online, go to, click on "Events and Exhibits," then scroll down to Oct. 18, "Breaking Down Barriers Diversity Outreach Event," and click on the name. There is a link to the registration form under the event description.

Century Center will offer both free continental breakfast and parking to all attendees.

Source: (c)2012 the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.) Distributed by MCT Information Services