State college board teams with minority biz site

By Laura Tillman/The Associated Press

JACKSON — The state College Board announced an initiative Wednesday to partner with a website that promotes minority businesses.

The website, Where2Go411.com, connects minority-owned businesses with buyers online. The College Board is encouraging more Mississippi businesses to use the website so universities can easily find them when searching for potential vendors.

The initiative was launched at Jackson State University. All eight of the state’s public universities will participate in training sessions at vendor fairs to introduce local businesses to the website.

“This is part of the board’s focus on increasing minority participation at universities, whether we’re talking about the percentage of students enrolled, faculty or staff, or administration, or procurement opportunities,” said Hank Bounds, state commissioner of higher education. “We’re using a number of tools, and today we roll out one of those tools.”

Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, said it’s important to push past resistance to minority business initiatives.

“When you’re working with the rank-and-file purchasing agents or directors of administration, they often fall into the trap of doing business the way they’ve always done it in the past,” Horhn said. “It’s comfortable, they’ve got a system and that system appears to work for them.”

Horhn said he’s glad the College Board is getting involved with promoting minority businesses.

“We have to quit talking about this,” he said. “Everyone pays lip service, but very few entities are actually doing it because it requires change and it requires making a commitment to bring about the change and seeing it through your people who are responsible for the day to day activities.”

Kathy Times, co-founder of Where2Go411.com, said it is important to focus on driving the state economy.

“We’re hoping this will certainly become a model that other states will use,” Times said.

Minority enterprises will post information about their businesses and the goods and services they provide on the site. Universities will send and receive quotes, proposals, and subcontracting opportunities through the online system

Bounds said the ability to use the website to request quotes and track the outcome, including when a vendor does or does not submit a proposal and whether the vendor receives the bid, will save the universities time and effort.

“It will also provide data for future decision-making,” Bounds said.