Diversity Bridge connects businesses to opportunities

Somers Martin

Small businesses, particularly those that are woman- and minority-owned, face multiple challenges every day.

What resources are available and where can I locate them? Who offers the training that I need in order to operate and sustain my business? I want to be certified, but there are multiple certifications; how do I know which is best for me? Is there a one-stop shop that can help address these questions and others?

Somers L. Martin, director of business development services for the Columbus Chamber

Well, yes, there is.

Diversity Bridge is an economic development initiative of the Columbus Chamber with the goal of creating job opportunities and wealth increase in the minority business community by embracing strategies that stimulate the creation and growth of women, minority and disadvantage-owned businesses.

We believe that a more efficient and effective service delivery network, increased capacity within the minority business community, and an increase in the perception that the greater Columbus community is a place to do business because of its inclusiveness will help us to achieve this goal.

The Diversity Bridge initiative provides direct programming or a link to the appropriate program for all women/minority business enterprises, no matter what their business cycle status is– start-up to growth to mature.

Our region is a diverse one and it economic opportunities should be available to all of its diverse business owners. Many larger businesses and organizations in the Columbus region have embraced the philosophy of Diversity Bridge, and are committed to contracting with W/MBEs and would prefer that these contracts be with local businesses.

The components of Diversity Bridge include:

  • • Virtual one-stop web portal that engages buyers, services providers, certifying agencies and W/MBEs, and provide access to resources and opportunities;
  • • Common Certification Application that reduces the burden of completing multiple applications. The applications for the city of Columbus, Department of Administrative Services, Ohio Department of Transportation, and South Central Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council are completed at one time and submitted electronically to the appropriate certifying agency in their format. The certifying agencies retain the approval authority;
  • • Business Resource Provider Network comprised of more than 30 non-profit organizations who provide information regarding available business assistance and resources;
  • • Buyers Network where buyers can post bid opportunities and search for qualified vendors;
  • • Interactive Calendar that is populated by service providers and others so business owners can identify, at a glance, where they should spend their time, increasing their own efficiency and effectiveness in managing their business as staff resources.

The Diversity Bridge Initiative is an economic development program that was launched in 2008 and enhanced in 2010 to help accelerate the growth of minority and women-owned businesses.

Through this initiative, the Columbus Chamber, through a generous grant awarded by the city of Columbus and sponsored by Small and Minority Business Development Committee Chair A. Troy Miller, will continue to leverage resources, minimize duplication of effort, and connect minority businesses with opportunities, resources and peers.

For more information about the Diversity Bridge initiative, please contact Somers L. Martin, director of business development services for the Columbus Chamber at 614-225-6919.