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Charleston’s Mayor is Committed to Supplier Diversity and Strengthening the City’s Tech Infrastructure

Rich_W_Teck(L) Charleston, SC Mayor John Tecklenburg, (R) BidLAN CEO Richard Souffrant

It takes a village to build a meaningful and robust supplier diversity space. That includes everyone, from the production floor employees to the C-suite executives. Our taking ownership of core values like diversity and inclusion promotes healthy competition and ultimately economic growth for all.

Honestly though, whether or not an organization builds and supports an effective supplier diversity program rests largely on the shoulders of top-level decision makers, board members and executives. Their choices set the standard for employees and the market place as a whole.

That is why the team here at BidLAN is very optimistic about Charleston’s future. You see, the city’s mayor, John Tecklenburg, has pledged to improve the quality of life for all of its citizens by supporting supplier diversity, tech, and education.

BidLAN’s CEO, Richard Souffrant, had the privilege of attending his inauguration earlier this year. He shared his thoughts on the experience with us.

BidLAN blog: How do you know Mr. Tecklenburg?

Richard: When he was running for mayor, I advertised for him and attended many of his campaign events.

Also, during his campaign, I held what I like to call “Talks with Tecks” (although Mr. Tecklenburg has quite adopted this terminology…yet). These were house parties that allowed people to come together, in an intimate setting, and learn about Mr. Tecklenburg’s position on different issues and vision for the city.

For me, those events were like catching up with an old friend. I have known John for about 6-years.

BidLAN blog: What about the inauguration had the biggest impact on you?

Richard: There are two things I distinctly remember about the inauguration.

First, the changes the mayor wants to make in Charleston, namely, investing in the city’s tech space. He wants that to be a big part of Charleston’s future.

The second thing isn’t necessarily what he said but what he did. When I looked at the demographics of the inauguration crowd, the diversity spoke volumes. Everyone was equally represented. The number of black attendees to white attendees was almost split down the middle.

I don’t think any other candidate would have had that type of demographic. You can tell Mr. Tecklenburg truly believes in diversity. Even the speakers at his event were diverse. That says a lot about what he is trying to build, a more diverse Charleston.

BidLAN blog: Why did those two things stand out to you?

Richard: Because I believe that the joy Charleston brings to visitors everyday, is the same joy locals should have the opportunity to experience. To enable that, we must build a strong jobs infrastructure. And bringing tech to Charleston would do a lot to create that environment.

If you build it, they will come. We already have a diverse landscape of people in this city. North Charleston alone is almost 50% African American. If the locals see that tech is a thriving and profitable industry, more students will major in tech. We would also be able to attract more talent to our city.

BidLAN blog: How has attending this event impacted your mission to create opportunities and access for minorities and underrepresented groups?

Richard: I saw so much diversity at the inauguration, a symbol of John Tecklenburg’s commitment to diversity. Because of that, I feel more empowered as an advocate for supplier diversity in the contracting space. I feel even more invigorated to be as vocal as possible about diversity because I know that my mayor will be behind me…Now, we can start righting the wrongs of the past.

BidLAN blog: Any final words?

Richard: I want people to know that beta will be here soon. And with everyone’s support, we can make the supplier diversity space better.

We here at BidLAN are very optimistic about the future of supplier diversity and the pivotal role technology will play in bringing this industry into the 21st century. To those working hard on the front-lines with us we say, “Continue! You are doing more good than you will ever know.”




Did you know that 99% of all businesses in the United States are small businesses? Among them, about 26 million are considered micro businesses, firms with five or fewer employees. Between 2004 and 2010, these businesses created a net of more than 5 million jobs. During the same time period, large companies, firms with 500 or more employees, shed more than 1 million jobs. Micro businesses alone contribute over $1 trillion to the U.S. economy annually.

Put simply, small businesses are the backbone of America’s economy.

Not only that, small businesses help build better communities. The revenue that these businesses generate is funneled directly into the neighborhoods they serve. More than just a side endeavor, 74% of their owners report micro businesses to be their sole source of income. Small businesses often hire other small businesses as providers of goods and services. And small businesses tend to pay higher wages than their larger counterparts.

These business owners usually live and work in the communities they serve. This means that they pay taxes to their local government, which funds public services like schools and hospitals. And they are more likely to hire members of these same communities.

Every day, small businesses help close the income inequality gap.

According to Cheryl Salley, business development manager for Columbia, SC’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), small businesses “are crucial to our local communities…and economy. They stimulate job growth, leading to a better overall quality of life.”

Yet, in spite all that these businesses contribute to our local economies and the nation as a whole, they often have a difficult time obtaining the capital, exposure, and other resources they need to grow. Organizations like the SBDC are doing their part by creating access to funds, training and connections. But, we as consumers also have the power to help. As Mrs. Salley puts it, we need to “make a conscious effort to support our local businesses”.

So, this season, as you shop for your friends and loved ones, don’t forget about your local small businesses. They need and deserve our support.

How can you do it?

Start with who you know; your fabulous hair stylist, go-to mechanic, trusty handyman or independent pest control guy. Think about it, everybody eventually needs an oil change, a fresh hair-do, or repairs around the house. Ask these service providers if they offer gift cards or certificates for their business. If they do, purchase some as alternatives to the gifts you would have bought in a big-box store. If they don’t, why not suggest that they look into offering these kinds of client incentives? They would be marketing their business and guaranteeing a customer at the same time.

Or you could Google artists, artisans, clothing shops and designers, or other creative businesses in your local area. You could commission a unique painting, ornamental artwork, or clothing item.

Then, there’s always the old fashioned way. Simply walk into a local store and look around. You’re bound to find something worth purchasing. Goods produced locally are often of higher quality than mass produced items.

And Let us not forget local farmers markets, craft markets, art fairs and antique shops.

Really, the possibilities are endless. We can and should support our local businesses as often as possible. We just have to make the conscious effort to do so. But, isn’t making our communities stronger by supporting our local economy worth the effort?