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General Mills Honored for Commitment to Minority Vendors

Larry Werner

Thursday's awards luncheon at RiverCentre in St. Paul was an annual gathering of small businesses, but the company getting most of the attention has more than $10 billion in revenue and operations all over the world.

Steve Sanger, chairman and CEO of General Mills, accepted an award for corporate executive of the year at the 27th annual Business Opportunity Fair of the Minnesota Minority Supplier Development Council (MMSDC). Following the acceptance of that award on behalf of the company and Chief Diversity Officer Lydia Mallet, Sanger sat at the head table and smiled as award-winning minority suppliers thanked General Mills repeatedly for the role the big company has played in the small companies' success.

"We set up an organization to make it happen," Sanger said in explaining how his company spent $189 million with minority-owned suppliers last year. "We believe in it. We want to tap the creativity of all the potential suppliers out there."

The award-winning entrepreneurs who thanked General Mills during acceptance speeches at Thursday's event, which provided a fitting climax to National Small Business Week, were:

  • Katrina Chang, owner of Ithaca Promotions, who was named supplier of the year in the category with sales of less than $2 million. "I want to thank General Mills for helping me develop my gift-certificate business," she said.

  • Jerry Marsh, chief operating officer for HCP Services, whose company was named supplier of the year among companies with between $2 million and $10 million in sales. Marsh cited General Mills as one of several large companies responsible for the success of the St. Paul administrative-staffing firm. He also mentioned Carlson Companies, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, the 3M Co. and the University of Minnesota.

  • Kay Kuba, CEO of GCI Systems, whose company was named supplier of the year for companies with sales of more than $10 million a year. "It's because of General Mills I'm here today," said Kuba, whose company sells technology services.

The General Mills accolades continued with the naming of Jana Goldenman, supplier diversity administrator at General Mills, with the award for minority business advocate of the year.

Sanger told the gathering of minority business owners: "The award for us reflects the great work you do. We challenge you to keep finding ways to get our business."

Sanger said his company's goal is to make 5 percent of its purchases from minority suppliers. He said it had been at about 4 percent, but the number dropped slightly after General Mills bought Pillsbury. By 2007, Sanger said, his company hopes to buy $300 million worth of products and services from minority-owned companies.

Another large company honored for its support of minority suppliers was Medtronic. Mark Westergaard, senior commodity specialist for Medtronic, was named buyer of the year, and Gretchen Ebert, supplier diversity manager for the Fridley medical-technology company, was given a Star Award by MMSDC. The other Star Award went to Dorothy Richburg, president of Keystone Computer Solutions.

Source: Star Tribune


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