Ensuring diverse partners are incorporated into the procurement process was the key theme for those who attended The Southern California Development Forum (SCDF) panel discussion on March 14, 2023. Aptly named “How Diversity Informs Procurement,” attendees got a first-hand perspective of how some of the leading companies -- from gaming to entertainment properties -- are incorporating key diversity initiatives into their process.
Abbey Ehman, Lincoln Property Company, served as the moderator of the event and curated the panel of top experts. Panelists included Alex Kim, Riot Games; Dink Jason Toller, Shadowbox Studios; Jason Witt, SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park; and Jennifer Trotter, Plenary Americas.
The importance of diverse vendors
One of the key themes all panelists cited in how they have incorporated diversity into their procurement process has been related to their various personal backgrounds. Trotter cited her heritage and growing up where the built environment was changing rapidly around her.
“I was navigating the world as a bi-racial kid growing up in San Diego along the border. A key moment in my childhood was this freeway being built near my high school. As a teenager, all I could do was think about the people who were losing their homes there. So that really drove me to pursue a career in planning, community development and economic development,” Trotter noted. “I fell into supplier diversity at the same time and really have been able to help meld those ideas together about the forms of community engagement and supplier diversity workforce development, so that there are equal opportunities for contracts, for jobs, and for knowledge.”
Kim cited his own background as an Asian-American starting out as a superintendent. He noted that his respect came from being in the field as he built his career. He now serves as the principal of global real estate, design and construction at Riot Games.
“The way I got respect in the industry was by doing manual labor, picking up the shovel. Through that camaraderie, I gained so much respect for the folks in our field every day. Now, I love creating and fostering culture where even the quiet voices in the room are amplified, hearing all the opinions, voices and representation – these are all crucial to any product success.”
Diversity in procurement efforts
Jason Witt, Director of Community Engagement for Hollywood Park Management Company, discussed how his company has built their programs to ensure diversity in all the company’s procurement processes. He cited being intentional as a cultural aspect including how the company recruits, actively diversifying their procurement streams, and intentionally focusing on local business.
“People need to see you’re a part of the community,” he noted.
Since the SoFi Stadium build, and the creation of the retail district in the area which now includes the American Airlines Plaza, the projects have been able to draw in more than $850 million in diversity spend. Witt noted that they’ve been able to provide $120 million in wages to the community of South Los Angeles and another $40 million in wages to Inglewood residents working in construction right now in their own backyard.
Toller cited a similar theme: intentionality. Toller has worked with Netflix and Amazon Studios and noted that one of the prominent developments for Netflix near Burbank was key in increasing the company’s diversity of suppliers.
“First, you have to know if this is something you genuinely believe in or if it’s checking off a box as an edict from your corporate office,” Toller said.
It was important to him that they approach their procurement process for this project with a diverse lens in mind from the beginning, starting with their construction personnel interview process.
“50% of the project ended up being diverse. But that wasn't enough for me. I'm a pretty competitive person. So I said, ‘What else can we do?’ We have an industry that's getting older and grayer and not necessarily feeling as well as we could.”
The team partnered with LA Trade Tech, coordinated trade interns, and had them follow the project from day one to delivery. Down to catering, Toller’s team wanted to ensure diverse suppliers and hired a minority-owned restaurant for catering.
“What I’ve realized is one, if you're with a large firm and use your bully pulpit, you have something and two, if you're not one of the larger firms, you can still share your passion. Because passion is contagious, and people will go along with you. We never set a goal. We never told someone what percentage of diverse suppliers we wanted. We just said let’s go do it, not just talk about it.”
"That intentional aspect is key," added Ehman, the moderator. “The report card speaks for itself.”
When it comes to adding or increasing diverse suppliers to their process, panelists encouraged consistent and fair manners in their practices, leaving egos at the door, thinking about related partners in your programming, workforce training, not being afraid of what you don’t know, and pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones.
437 S. Cataract Ave Suite 4B San Dimas, CA 91773
Managed by Co-Pilots