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Meet Mauricio: Driving Change for Businesses Owned by People of Color

Since 2019, the Buffalo Purchasing Initiative (BPI) has found ways to open doors for businesses of color to work with major institutions and supply them with products and services they need. To Mauricio Canton Diaz, BPI Program Director, this will lead to a ripple effect of benefits for Western New York, and he is prepared to help lead the charge on behalf of BPI members. “BPI members are putting forth an authentic effort to change things for the better,” he said.

Born and raised in Mexico City, Mauricio attended Mercyhurst University where he studied intelligence studies and political science. He went back to Mexico briefly after earning his degree and moved to Buffalo in 2018 and started working as a Business Advisor at the Buffalo State Small Business Development Center. In that role, he counseled entrepreneurs and established business owners on obtaining the Minority-and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) certification and how they should utilize it to obtain contract opportunities. He also worked for Empire State Development’s Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development as a Senior Analyst in 2022.

Mauricio was soon introduced to BPI, born out of the Business Leaders Task Force, an initiative of the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable, that today is comprised of 14 major employers in our region that are working together to strengthen inclusive workplace practices.

“My background comes from the supply side, developing businesses that are ready to engage with large corporations from the area,” he noted. That made him an ideal fit for his role with the BPI, which focuses on coordinating the program for the major employers and connecting them with small businesses owned by people of color.

Named BPI Program Director in January 2023, Mauricio’s responsibilities include meeting individually with those 14 employers as well as the business owners. “I prefer to meet with the business owners at their location, because that gives me a better understanding of where they are in the city, and a tangible feel for where they are in their journey to become a successful business enterprise,” Mauricio said. “It also allows me to develop a personal connection with them, which is important in what I do, because at the end of the day, I’m not making purchasing decisions– the BPI members are– but the better I can advocate for the business owners, the higher the chance they have at securing a contract.”

As a result, BPI members significantly increased their spend with local businesses owned by people of color. “BPI members are doing business with local businesses owned by people of color at 3.5 times the rate they were doing before BPI. And there has been an almost $60 million net increase, collectively, of spend since BPI started,” Mauricio said.

Other BPI highlights to date include developing a website that lists its members with information about the specific procurement and purchasing policies for each, and hosting industry-specific matchmaking events that introduce decision makers from BPI members to the small businesses.

According to Mauricio, BPI benefits the local businesses owned by people of color in a number of ways. “It opens many doors that historically have been closed. That is the number one thing,” he said. “The second is we are creating a culture inside BPI member organizations where stakeholders understand the value businesses owned by people of color bring to the table and why they must be intentionally included. On the other hand, businesses of color learn more about each BPI member organization, and in my role, I give them pointers on the right documents they should have ready to be shared and the type of attributes they should highlight. Further, we explain and clarify how the procurement process works with large organizations.”

Looking ahead, Mauricio plans to support the efforts of the Business Leaders Task Force to expand the program, adding 1-2 new employer members every 2-3 years. The BPI also has plans to build out its website to include a user-friendly portal geared at showcasing purchasing opportunities for local businesses owned by people of color.

Learn more about the BPI and how it connects its members with local businesses: