Over 150 people attended the fair and many listened to the panel discussion on the challenges of supplier diversity. (Calvin Naito)

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) hosted a Supplier Diversity Fair on Feb. 22, where local, small, and disadvantaged businesses networked and got connected with prime contractors and LA city departments for potential contracting opportunities on current and upcoming infrastructure projects in the L.A. region.

The event co-sponsors were Los Angeles World Airports, LA Metro, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and the LA Bureau of Engineering.

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The fair included a panel discussion on the importance of promoting business, economic development, and diversity.  The panel included Gene Hale, president of G&C Equipment Corporation and the chair of the Greater L.A. African American Chamber of Commerce (GLAAACC), and Ingrid Meriwether, CEO of Merriwether & Williams Insurance Services (MWIS).  The discussion was moderated by Dominque DiPrima, who hosts a public affairs interview show on KBLA-AM (1580) radio.

From left are Ingrid Merriwether, Gene Hale, and Dominique DiPrima, at podium.   (Calvin Naito)

Hale said he helped create GLAAACC some 30 years ago because “we needed a voice.”  He acknowledged that accessing public contracts is challenging, saying that contractors need to get in front of the decision-makers.  He added, “Don’t get discouraged.  Fight.”

Merriwether told the crowd, “We need to address systemic barriers that prevent access.”  She encouraged contractors to team with other small firms and to become activists to create policy changes that will create more opportunities for small, local, and diverse businesses.

Also, Merriwether said that contractors need to access resources that are out there, including the L.A. Regional Contractor Development and Bonding Program (CDABP), which MWIS administers on behalf of the City of LA, LA Metro, and the County of LA.  She encouraged individuals to contact the CDABP, saying, “We can be a starting point.”

For more information on GLAAACC and the CDABP, visit  www.glaaacc.org and www.LAConDev.com