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Consultant Helps Port Increase Equity in Contracting Process

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September 23, 2021

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, the Port recognizes the achievements and contributions of Latin Americans who have inspired others to achieve success.

The Port of Seattle has long been a supporter of small business growth and workforce development and has prioritized contracts with women- and minority-owned (WMBE) firms. For the past 20 years, Ralph Ibarra has collaborated with the Port to support efforts to increase inclusivity, diversity, equity, and accessibility with contractors. 

As president of DiverseAmerica Network for the past 30 years, Ibarra has applied his knowledge, competencies, and expertise to achieve his clients’ business and social impact objectives and attain inclusive outcomes. 

Ralph Ibarra
Ralph Ibarra

In 2003, Ibarra helped the Port's Diversity in Contracting team develop the precursor to the Diversity in Contracting Program that offers resources and workshops to teach WMBE business owners how to do business with the Port.

In 2021, Ibarra completed a contract to ensure that the Port's equity, diversity, and inclusion values were implemented throughout the construction process for the International Arrivals Facility project, and that contractors and vendors at all levels of the project were treated equitably.

Ibarra believes the Port of Seattle is “at the forefront of economic justice and true inclusion." He's a regular attendee at PortGen workshops, which provide an opportunity for small businesses to meet Port representatives;  learn about programs, initiatives, and contracting goals; and connect to resources. 
 
Ibarra has developed a new acronym for the work he does. While DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) is a common term often used by others, he refers to his work using the IDEA acronym.

“I put ‘inclusion’ first, followed by ‘diversity’, ‘equity’, and add ‘access’,” he said.

Ibarra notes that small and diverse firms have struggled to get access to new opportunities and connections since the pandemic halted in-person collaboration. He sees PortGen workshops as a valuable tool where businesses can connect and build relationships and develop critical insights.
 
“The PortGen team orchestrates excellent program content that's beneficial to both primes and subcontractors,” he said.
 
Ibarra urges companies who want to do business with the Port to learn about Port operations by attending PortGen sessions and teaming up with other firms that have worked with the Port. Educating themselves about the Port procurement process is a great way for businesses to prepare for the next Port contracting opportunity.

Businesses who want to learn more can review the following resources:

“The Port is fair, just, and willing to listen,” Ibarra said, “All institutions should embrace continuous process improvement like the Port of Seattle, and I urge all public agencies to improve their procurement practices so that small firms win!”

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