Return to Headlines

Columbus City Schools Teams Up with Ohio Agencies to Boost Supplier Diversity

panel of people on stage

May 22, 2024 - Columbus City Schools (CCS) joined the City of Columbus Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Ohio Department of Development, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners’ Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and the Columbus Metropolitan Library for the 2024 Supplier Diversity & Procurement Summit.

“We aim to promote equity, innovation, and economic prosperity by bringing together this summit's private and public sectors and connecting diverse suppliers with transformative opportunities,” said Columbus Board of Education President Christina Vera 

The event was held on May 15, 2024, at the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Main Branch. It marked the first time these organizations collaborated to increase certification of minority and women-owned businesses. Certification allows vendors to access specific procurement opportunities with government entities.

“We heard you,” Jason T. Jenkins, chief diversity officer and executive director of the City of Columbus Office of Diversity and Inclusion, said. “It’s so difficult to work along the different lines of government.”

Dr. Kenyona Walker, Director of Equity at CCS, noted that suppliers often struggle with the participating agencies’ differing certification requirements.

“There are areas where we have overlap, but also areas where we have distinctions,” Dr. Walker said in regards to CCS certification. One example is that some agencies accept the certification of others to apply for contracts while CCS does not.

Participants learned these differences by attending six breakout sessions focused on certification, procurement, contracts, and bidding. Each summit’s agencies participated in the sessions, sharing their processes for onboarding vendors.

Dr. Walker led participants through the District’s Local Economically Disadvantaged Enterprises (LEDE) vendor certification. Certification as an LEDE vendor requires the following: a business located within Franklin County, more than 50% of full-time employees reside within the District, and at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more individuals with a personal net worth equal to or less than $750,000, and operating for a minimum of one year.

The five-step LEDE vendor process involves completing the CCS vendor application, completing the LEDE application, participating in an on-site visit, securing approval, and obtaining certification.

The event also featured networking opportunities, a vendor showcase, and a panel discussion on securing business capital funding. Dr. Walker said that this information will help vendors understand how to most effectively accrue finances for their businesses and different ways to build a professional network. 

“One of the biggest challenges for many of these vendors is having enough capital and getting bonded,” Dr. Walker said. “We are helping by having the banks here to make that connection.”

Dr. Walker defined equity as “making sure we have access to the supports we need to be successful.” She said the summit successfully provided attendees with those opportunities.

Power of One

Priority 2 - Equitable Opportunities for AllPriority 3 - Strong Learning Communities in Every RegionPriority 4 - Authentic Engagement