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Business View – September 2021 / Minority Business Advocate
When Spire Inc. bought Mobile Gas in 2016, the St. Louis based company had a host of issues to resolve as it moved into a new market. Logistics and infrastructure were understandable priorities, but one aspect of the company’s mission was also at the forefront: supporting supplier diversity through contracts with locally owned minority businesses.
For its work toward that since it became the Mobile Bay area’s natural gas supplier, the Mobile Area Chamber named Spire the 2021 Rev. Wesley A. James Minority Business Advocate.
Prior to taking over the Mobile market, Spire’s leadership needed to get a read on the current state of community support for minority businesses throughout the area, and how the company could best support and magnify those efforts.
“I was very happy to see that in Mobile, just as it is in the Southeast in general, there is a lot of support,” said Joshua McLeod, Spire’s director of supply chain innovation and supplier diversity.
Some of the biggest hurdles for minority businesses looking to work with large companies like Spire include acquiring the necessary certifications and even just getting a seat at the table from an access standpoint, McLeod said. And that’s where advocacy groups like the Mobile Area Chamber can pave the way.
“Having that community and advocacy group support is a big enabler to diverse suppliers, and in that regard this area is doing really well,” he said.
In Mobile, Spire contracts with minority suppliers for a host of goods and services, including office supplies and consumables, as well as commercial printing. To facilitate those relationships, it has customized its payment terms and methods to help the smaller companies with cash flow. Spire also holds pre-bid meetings in advance of complex bidding and has unveiled its digital prospective supplier portal, which streamlines how companies get into its system for contract work.
“Within the four walls of Spire, our supplier diversity program is a really big deal,” McLeod said. “It’s the way we do business, and also it’s such an enhancer to us trying to solve some of the most complex problems facing our industry.”
Diversity within its supplier base is one goal the company works to maintain, but it also allows Spire to benefit from what he calls “diversity of thought.”
To support the culture of minority business in Mobile, Spire continues to sponsor the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) breakfast hosted by Blacks in Government, the Focus Women’s Conference and the Downtown Mobile Alliance’s Small-Scale Development Workshop.
All these efforts eventually serve and support the relationship between Spire and its 85,000 customers in Mobile, according to McLeod.
“We’re making a really big effort to make sure our supply base looks like the community we operate in,” he said, “which hopefully encourages people to reach out and do business with Spire.”
Within the four walls of Spire, our supplier diversity program is a really big deal. It’s the way we do business,
and also it’s such an enhancer to us trying to solve some of the most complex problems facing our industry.”
Joshua McLeod, director of supply chain innovation and supplier diversity, Spire Inc.
Click here to read the Business View – October 2021
Additional information is on the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce’s website at mobilechamber.com, on Facebook at @MobileChamber, Instagram at @mobile-area-chamber and Twitter at @MobileChamber.