In the modern corporate landscape, employee resource groups (ERGs) are beacons of inclusivity and collaboration. ERGs also offer a promising avenue to bolster business development efforts. Through connections established via ERGs and minority chambers of commerce, corporations can weave a tapestry of diverse suppliers, enriching their operations and signaling a commitment to equitable business practices.

Moreover, ERGs serve as a vanguard in the pursuit of diversity, both internally and externally. By championing outreach initiatives, they become pivotal in identifying and recruiting talent from varied backgrounds, enriching the talent pool and infusing fresh perspectives into organizations. Concurrently, business diversity programs offer a host of benefits by tracking spending with small and diverse businesses, expanding supplier networks, and building trust with clients and subcontractors. In addition to procurement, these programs can help companies attract top talent, enhancing innovation and nurturing an inclusive workplace culture. Together, ERGs and business diversity programs work in tandem to achieve business objectives while also promoting diversity and inclusion within the organization.

Together By Design sat down with Carlos Gomez, president and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Kansas City; and Gabe Hernandez, vice president of the Transmission & Distribution Group at Burns & McDonnell, and executive sponsor for the LATINX ERG; to discuss how ERGs can support and foster business development efforts.

Gabe, what initiatives has the LATINX ERG at Burns & McDonnell undertaken to foster connections, both internally and externally?


Gabe Hernandez: The LATINX ERG at Burns & McDonnell has been instrumental in bridging connections, both internally and externally, fostering leadership opportunities and amplifying our presence in communities nationwide.

Our commitment to building relationships extends beyond internal teams to encompass a diverse professional network both within and outside the company. This spring, we are hosting a joint event with Dominion Energy at its headquarters in Richmond, Virginia. Aligning our LATINX ERG with Dominion Energy's own ERG allows us to celebrate our shared heritage while leveraging our collective strengths to foster new opportunities.

This commitment to inclusivity and learning strengthens our bonds with clients while cultivating a vibrant network of like-minded individuals dedicated to driving positive change in our communities. Our recent event, Equity in Energy, exemplifies this ethos, bringing together community leaders, clients, employee owners and diverse suppliers for dialogue and partnerships that extend far beyond Kansas City.

Carlos, as a leader in the Hispanic business community, what advice would you give to companies like Burns & McDonnell seeking to strengthen their engagement with diverse communities?


Carlos Gomez: The goal is to seamlessly integrate diversity into every facet of corporate culture, transcending the confines of designated months or committees; embrace diversity not as a periodic observance, but as an inherent part of the organization’s DNA. By encouraging engagement beyond token gestures, fostering volunteerism and cross-cultural collaboration, companies like Burns & McDonnell will see true dividends. True diversity extends beyond surface representation — it's about actively integrating individuals from all backgrounds into every level of the organization.

Can you share a specific example of how collaboration between Burns & McDonnell and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has contributed to the growth or success of a Hispanic-owned business?

CG: Together, we have both worked with Infinite Energy Construction (IEC). Through our partnership, we’ve helped them navigate the complexities of contracting, certification and the 8(a) application, propelling them toward growth and success while providing new opportunities for Burns & McDonnell to hire IEC as a subcontractor. We each have distinct roles, but ultimately, we're both supporting companies like IEC. It's this collaborative relationship that fuels the growth for all parties.

GH: Building off what Carlos said, Infinite Energy has become one of our strongest suppliers, particularly in substation design services. This collaboration has not only strengthened our ties with clients nationwide but also enriched our local community, given Infinite Energy’s proximity to us here in Kansas City. This partnership exemplifies our commitment to our core values.

Carlos, as someone deeply involved in fostering connections between businesses and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, what innovative strategies help foster sustainable and mutually beneficial partnerships between corporations and chambers of commerce?

CG: Just as joining a gym without working out yields no results, mere affiliation with chambers of commerce doesn't unlock their full potential. It's the active involvement, the commitment to showing up, speaking up and lending a hand that truly catalyzes positive change. From encouraging employees to volunteer to provide essential services like human resources and legal guidance to small businesses, our engagement transcends transactional involvement.

By nurturing relationships with small businesses and nonprofits, we're fostering an ecosystem where every entity thrives. Burns & McDonnell doesn’t just talk the talk; you walk the walk. And in doing so, you’re setting an example not only for your peers in Kansas City but for companies nationwide. Because when we prioritize engagement, we not only elevate our communities but also reaffirm the fundamental truth that corporations are ultimately comprised of people — people with the power to effect real, lasting change.

Gabe, you helped establish the Kansas City chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. How has your involvement contributed to community outreach efforts and philanthropic initiatives?

GH: At Burns & McDonnell, our community engagement and philanthropic initiatives have elevated our presence. As a lifetime member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, I helped kick-start our Kansas City chapter a few years back. What began as a Burns & McDonnell initiative soon grew into a vibrant community effort, evolving into the thriving Kansas City chapter. Twice a year, local SHPE members put on an event called “Noche de Ciencias,” or science night, to introduce middle and high school students, as well as their parents, to science technology, engineering and math professions.


This post is part of Together By Design, a business diversity newsletter published by Burns & McDonnell to advance a community of inclusion. This newsletter features stories of great opportunity, leaders who bring out the best in others, innovative approaches, and diverse perspectives that shape the business community and the world at large.

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