Northwest Mountain and Fernando Martinez: Helping Small Businesses Dream Big

March 10, 2021 | Port of Seattle

The Northwest Mountain Minority Suppliers Development Council (NWMMSDC) is a national organization that links government agencies, corporations, and private sector prime contractors with certified minority-owned businesses (MBE’s) wanting to do business. NWMMSDC is a 501c3 with two-tier participation. The Northwest chapter includes Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah. Shepherding the organization for the last eight years is president and CEO, Fernando Martinez. Fernando says the council’s purpose is laser-focused to create equity between qualified minority businesses and Fortune 500 corporations, regional corporations, and public agencies like the Port of Seattle.

Q: Who should join the Northwest Mountain Minority Suppliers Development Council?

A: From a corporate perspective, entities that believe in diversity workforce, marketing, and supply chain. From the minority business perspective, companies that want to be on a grander scale and wish to grow. 

Q: What is NWMMSDC’s relationship with the Port of Seattle? 

A: The council has had a relationship with the Port of Seattle for over thirty years. We support the Diversity in Contracting team members. We provide them with a list of competent WMBE’s with a proven history to meet the contracting needs of the Port.  

This past summer, I was invited to speak and I talked about our pillars. Our organization has four key pillars. The first is the certification process, a robust approach to certify minority businesses. The second is development. That’s where we (with our partners) work with MBEs to help them understand their gaps and their strengths. We also assist them in building capacity for their organization. The next pillar is networking. That pillar matches competent businesses with opportunities at the Port of Seattle.  

We hold events and offer one-on-one meetings and personal introductions. It’s relationship building. The last piece is advocacy. This is where we work to educate our MBEs, our corporate and public agencies, and, in some cases, legislators about supplier diversity. We want to educate everybody on the value of supplier diversity and the value of being inclusive. 

Q: What advice do you have for small and WMBE businesses?

A: Dream big and let people help you with your dream. Don’t assume you know everything, that you don’t need any help, or can do everything yourself. Be willing to let others help and support you with your dream. Open yourself up to exposure and vulnerabilities because that will make you stronger, and it will put you in a better position to do business with organizations like the Port. 

Q: What expectation does the council have for its businesses?

A: We hold them accountable for who they are and what they want to be. We point out that pitfalls and help them change their strategies. The best thing we can be is honest and truthful with them and not give them veiled statements. 

Q: What should businesses do now in these uncertain times?

A: Small MBEs should take advantage of everything the government offers, including paycheck protection, and emergency disaster loans. Firms need to understand business sustainability, be willing to engage and network with others, and able to expand their businesses since 25 to 30 percent won’t come out of this pandemic. Businesses should look at how they can grow and absorb those that won’t make it. 

Q: What are some of the council goals for the future?

A: We are committed to leaning in. We don’t just think about the business. We think about the people the firms employ and help them grow to pay their employees better wages. The employees can then provide food and shelter, and their kids can go to school with full tummies and focus on learning. Our council’s utmost agenda is your great-grandchild. I want to help you grow, so you leave something for your great-grandchild. If we do this, we will have generational wealth, and we will have economic and political strength. We can truly change the dynamics of racism in this country.

https://www.portseattle.org/blog/northwest-mountain-and-fernando-martinez-helping-small-businesses-dream-big