James Harris is the director of diversity and supplier diversity with H-E-B, a large grocery store chain located throughout Texas and Mexico. Rolling out spoke with Harris about H-E-B’s partnership with Jerome Love and the Texas Black Expo.
Describe your relationship with the Texas Black Expo.
I’ve been working with Jerome Love for greater than 10-plus years, really focused on Houstonians, small businesses and giving back to the community and empowering educating and uplifting. What we’re doing with the expo is seeding capital into their small business loan or grant program. I think it’s critically important because we know that the lifeblood of any vibrant community is tied to small businesses. In fact, 50 percent of employment is tied to small businesses. Large companies that have a very strong financial balance sheet or have a good awareness program are able to stave off some of the activities happening in the marketplace today., [but] not so much with small businesses. So, this is our way of giving back to the community.
How do you help young entrepreneurs in your role at H-E-B?
We have a number of programs where we proactively go out to source small, local, minority suppliers to help them do business with H-E-B. We have editorial programs. We have an H-E-B opportunity exchange where we bring in all the decision-makers and prime contractors for an entire day. They teach them how to do business with H-E-B. To say just do business, they may not have the wherewithal, so we make it accessible for them.
If you’re looking for opportunities on both sides of the negotiating table, we share how we do business and the business opportunities that are coming back. Another way is that we have construction outreaches, so whenever we are building our stores in a particular marketplace, we have our prime contractors come in and teach local contractors how to get business on that particular job.
What is it like being a continuous advocate for the entire community?
I think being an advocate means just that. I think you can do it in words, and you can also do it in action. It’s like a ministry. I do it because I’m helping others, and somewhere along the line, people have helped me. Some people have helped me directly and some indirectly, who I may not even know. I think we have a responsibility to give back.
Flip the page to watch rolling out CEO Munson Steed’s interview with James Harris from H-E-B and Jerome Love from Black Texas Expo in its entirety.