During these unprecedented times, businesses in essential industries are experiencing dramatic disruption to their supply chains. Vital items to keep people safe from the coronavirus — such as masks, gloves and hand sanitizer — are increasingly hard to find or require longer and longer lead times.

To fill these gaps, businesses are reminded to continue exploring additional sourcing options — specifically small and diverse businesses.

Often located right in your backyard, small and diverse businesses have branched out and are providing materials and equipment crucial to the health and safety of workers and the community. While larger producers are facing shortages, often the innovative approaches of small and diverse businesses are helping them overcome challenges and meet more needs.

For example, our construction site employees required masks to safely continue working. With our normal supply chain under strain, we were able to place a large order with a local company in Missouri that makes masks out of bamboo. This unique production approach has left the local producer unburdened by the overlapping material needs of mass manufacturers. And as an added benefit, these masks meet requirements set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for airborne particle filtering levels. We were also able to connect with a local company for large orders of hand sanitizer for construction employees to use on job sites.

The supplier diversity community is an invaluable asset and resource to make these connections. Our ongoing work with and support of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Kansas City led us to these local suppliers of essential safety equipment. And so many other potential connections exist in communities all over.

As the effects of the coronavirus pandemic continue to change how we live our lives and conduct business, it makes sense that it also should affect how we approach and evaluate supply chains. Small and diverse businesses are in an extraordinary position to supplement ongoing gaps in materials and equipment, even beyond health and safety equipment, that are likely to persist. And by leveraging diverse supplier partnerships, businesses can simultaneously strengthen their support of their local communities.


Gain additional insight into the value of diverse business representation and utilization goals to further project success.

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Michelle Word is director of business diversity and development at Burns & McDonnell. She is responsible for developing procedures and policies that relate to and support diverse business inclusion.