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Rob WilliamsThe Supplier Diversity Office (SDO) always looks for new ways to increase opportunities for diverse and small businesses to work with the Commonwealth. One recent advancement in this mission came about in late March when the team welcomed Rob Williams into the newly developed role of Director of Diverse and Small Business Engagement.

Starting a new job often is a challenge, especially when taking on a brand-new role and doing so remotely, but Rob sees these factors as opportunities. “Many diverse and small business have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, so this outreach is needed now more than ever,” says Rob.

Working remotely and observing statewide social distancing orders has allowed Rob and the rest of the SDO team to reach even more diverse businesses than before. SDO has transitioned their in-person community days, in which the team would coordinate with local chambers of commerce and economic development offices to provide hands-on resources for small and diverse businesses in targeted gateway cities, to an online meeting platform. At first glance these virtual community days appear different—the online platform allows for a greater number of businesses to attend and sessions are held more frequently—but the goal of spreading awareness of SDO’s mission and state certification remains.

“Every connection or collaboration our office is able to help facilitate is a win,” says Rob. The SDO team encourages businesses interested in learning more about their programs to attend vendor training classes—Connecting your Business to the Commonwealth and the SDO Pre-Certification—which, as was reported in the June-July issue, have experienced a higher volume of registrations and attendance since going virtual.

The biggest focus right now remains PPE and re-opening supplies. “We’re raising awareness across the Commonwealth that we have resources and support to help diverse and small business be competitive in the market,” says Rob. “We want to be intentional and get diverse and small businesses into the supply chain and emerging markets.”

Rob has enjoyed getting to know his SDO and OSD colleagues in regular video meetings and looks forward to a time when they will be able to safely meet in-person again. For more information on the engagement initiatives Rob and SDO have been working on, please contact Rob Williams at Robert.Williams2@mass.gov.

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