Global venue development company Oak View Group is expanding its DEI commitments with the new supplier diversity program. The initiative – which has launched a pilot program with Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Moody Center in Austin, UBS Arena in New York and Miami Beach Convention Center – will help facilitate the use of minority-owned suppliers at all 400 OVG affiliated venues in the coming year.
Starting in January, company wide OVG will work to identify and increase sourcing from suppliers that are at least 51% owned, operated and managed at least 51% by a non-white minority, a disabled person and/or a woman. OVG currently recognizes a wide range of diverse certifications that include minority businesses, women, veterans, LGBTQ+, disabled persons, and other local city certifications. The program aims to foster economic inclusivity by making OVG’s supply chain more diverse by encouraging the use of vendors that are historically overlooked.
OVG is seeking suppliers in several fields including food and beverage, security, technology, construction, marketing, public works and various forms of consulting. Suppliers can confirm their minority-owned status through over a dozen certification outlets including Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), Women Business Enterprise (WBE) and Small Business Administration 8(a).
Founded in 2015, OVG has grown to work with more 400 venues worldwide and financed over $5 billion in capital currently deployed for new development projects. The size of the growing company may seem counterintuitive to working with small businesses, but OVG’s vp of diversity, equity, inclusion Dr. Debonair Oates-Primus tells Billboard the company is rolling out toll kits to help facilitate engagement with smaller businesses around the world.
“So much of the training is mindset shift. We have to make this really intentional,” says Oates-Primus of the new requirement for OVG venues. “I have to educate [OVG staff] on the bias that diverse businesses face. We had to make some changes to our valuation process to our criteria to our expectations of diverse businesses due to things like not having as much access to capital and not having access to networking opportunities to grow at a pace that we might think they need to be in order to with a company like ours.”
The initiative will evaluate diverse businesses by their capacity and where they can succeed within the OVG chain, as well as key difference that make businesses standout such as cost savings, reduction in delivery or setup times, value-added services, product/services quality, and sustainability.
Interested suppliers can fill out a questionnaire on each venue’s site that will give the local OVG venue an idea of what each small business can provide, but Oates-Primus explains that entities that are too small to address needs with OVG could also be connected with other large companies. If a business is too small, “let’s pair them with a larger business,” says Oates-Primus. “Let’s do some mentoring and coaching. So much of supplier diversity is just we’re not going to use a one size fits all rule. We can’t. That’s how bias creeps into every structure.”
As the initiative continues to roll out to OVG venues, the company plans to create benchmarks to help it succeed. Oates-Primus is aware that some areas are less diverse and will make the recruitment more difficult for venue operators and plans to tailor the tool kit to specific regions based on data being collected by the pilot venues.
“I don’t want any of the venue operators or leaders to feel like this has been forced upon them,” Oates-Primus tells Billboard, explaining that additional resources will be allocated to train and help venues. “I am doing a tour of all our leadership meetings, vice president meetings to let the leaders know all the ins and outs of the program so they also become champions of this for their teams.”
The OVG supplier diversity form can be found here.