For the first time, Princeton spent more than $100 million with diverse-owned firms in fiscal year 2022, and is on track to increase that number in the current fiscal year and beyond.
Spending with diverse-owned firms is up from $2.7 million in 2015 — the first year in which the University began tracking this statistic — in large part due to the development of an institution-wide, multi-year action plan for supplier and contractor diversity. Diverse-owned firms are those that are at least 51% owned by people of color, women, veterans or LGBTQIA+ individuals.
“Princeton’s strength in large part comes from building a diverse and inclusive community, and we can see that community across our campus with our faculty, our staff and our students,” said Jim Matteo, vice president for finance and treasurer. “Those same principles apply when it comes to our supplier community.”
The University adopted a Supplier Diversity Action Plan in 2021 to broaden the pool of suppliers who work with the University, including more diverse-owned businesses.
The plan built upon an existing supplier diversity program in the Office of Finance and Treasury. The University continues to expand work already underway to diversify the vendors, consultants and professional firms who provide goods and services to Princeton, and it continues to increase spending with these diverse suppliers.
Princeton’s Supplier Diversity Action Plan does not dictate who should be hired, but rather gives guidance that departments and offices should use when hiring outside companies. University departments are required to engage in a competitive bid process for all purchases over $10,000, and competitive bids are recommended for purchases or contracts of lesser value.
While overall University expenditures are up, a larger proportion of those dollars are being spent with diverse-owned firms, Matteo said. Over the last six years, total spending at the University has increased about 90%, largely due to major construction projects on campus. Expenditures with diverse firms have risen more than 700% during that period.
When diverse-owned firms are part of a merit-based competitive process for business, they are selected to engage with Princeton more than one-third of the time, Matteo said.
Matteo said increasing competition and expanding opportunities for suppliers is mutually beneficial.
“Our commitment is driven by the belief that engaging a diverse supplier base helps foster competition, opportunity and value by broadening the pool of supplier expertise, perspective and capabilities,” he said. “These actions not only strengthen the University, but also the communities with whom we do business.”
Princeton not only creates pathways for diverse suppliers to compete for contracts, but once individuals and firms are hired, Matteo said the University supports them in learning how to navigate its internal structures.
“How do they learn to work with different departments, create relationships?” Matteo said. “I think it’s important that we think about not just reaching out, but also, once we have someone who’s working with us, how we can help them be successful over time.”
Owners of diverse-owned businesses say the opportunity to work with Princeton has many benefits.
Linda Fan, managing partner of the Yuba Group — which provides financial analysis and advice to colleges and universities, as well as nonprofit institutions — said being selected as a financial advisor to the University has meant a lot to her personally and professionally. In fact, the company’s affiliation with Princeton has helped in growing the firm.
“To be able to say that Princeton University is one of your clients is very meaningful and carries a lot of weight,” she said.
Bernard Wright, principal of BDJ Ventures, which provides promotional products and customized apparel, said he is proud of the work he has done supplying apparel to members of Rockefeller College, one of Princeton’s residential colleges.
“The impact of my relationship with Princeton is far-reaching,” Wright said. “It certainly has allowed me to open up other doors to opportunities elsewhere.”
He added, “I’m hopeful that those doors that are open to me will be open to other minority suppliers like myself. I’m hopeful that the business opportunities will continue to come forth, and I will continue to be able to grow with Princeton University.”