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South Bend looks for diversity in purchasing

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — South Bend leaders say they’re seeing progress in their efforts to restore equity in minority communities.

“While the numbers aren’t great, it’s also kind of a win for us that we finally know what it looks like for us, where we can actually target our resources to help small businesses grow,” said Christina Brooks, South Bend’s diversity and inclusion officer.

January marks two years since Mayor Pete Buttigieg signed an executive order ensuring equal opportunities.

Two years and several partnerships later, the administration says that initiative is starting to grow teeth.

“We’ve seen some clear progress in all three areas, in workplace, workforce and in the community,” said Brooks.

Brooks outlined these findings in her recently submitted 2018 Diversity Purchasing Report.

She says while there has been an uptick in the number of minority construction work for the city, synergy with other industries for minority businesses haven’t been too strong.

“We’ve found some pretty big gaps in what the city is actually purchasing and the number of minority-owned business and women owned businesses that provide either those goods or services,” she said.

That’s why the city aligned with several community partners.

“Without them, truth be told, I don’t think we would be able to make this happen,” said Juan Hernandez, the president of the Latin Chamber of Commerce.

Under the city’s diversity and inclusion initiative, the Latin Chamber of Commerce received funding and resources for three programs to help develop Hispanic entrepreneurs.

“We’ve had a total of 27 participants in that class and the first two cohorts a combined total of 25 students who came through that one,” said Hernandez.

Each stakeholder is optimistic of progress, but they say there still quite a bit of work to be done.

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