Minority firms seek edge

Blue-chip efforts

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Seeking to attract uncommitted suppliers, Bank of America and GE are launching minority marketplace programs. The idea is to get the suppliers to sell to them through the Internet, without asking them to invest in pricey software.

Bank of America has started supplier enablement teams dedicated to getting more minority businesses hooked up to its Banc of America Marketplace. "We recognize that minority-owned businesses that choose not to become technological will find themselves with a barrier to entry," said Dorothy Brothers, national director of supplier diversity for Bank of America.

The bank's efforts are working: Five of the 21 marketplace suppliers are minority-owned.

GE last June debuted a supplier diversity portal that has so far signed up about 400 minority-owned suppliers. The portal stresses ease of use, allowing self-registered users to contact the sourcing leaders at GE's 12 main businesses.

"Our goal is to find these suppliers and to give them every bit of extra help they can use," said Peter McCabe, manager of the supplier diversity initiative.

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