DALLAS — May 27, 2016 — On the third day of its annual conference, May 25, the Wireless Industry Association held its inaugural Supplier Diversity Summit, which featured matchmaking meetings between small diverse businesses and major wireless carriers and infrastructure companies.
“We launched the Supplier Diversity Summit to shine a spotlight on the important role diversity plays in the future of wireless communications in this country and to create real business opportunities for small, women-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses,” said Tim House, executive vice president of WIA.
José Mas, CEO, MasTec, gave the keynote address for the event, which included one-on-one meetings with procurement officials from major wireless companies including Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, AT&T, American Tower, Crown Castle and SBA Communications.
“Diverse companies will get a chance to meet with suppliers, but there are no entitlements,” Mas said. “You have a great opportunity. My advice to the diverse businesses out there is you are going to get a chance, but it is up to you what you do with it.”
Mas said that he wished his company had the opportunity provided by the Summit when it was starting out, but the community was less friendly to minority owned businesses. He said he is proud of the strides in diversity that have been made in the wireless industry.
“This is one of the few industry events that is promoting diversity,” Mas said. “What makes this so important is that we are not at a minority tradeshow talking about diversity but that we are at an industry tradeshow talking about the importance of diversity.”
The Summit’s goal was to acknowledge the importance of diversity to the success of companies and helping grow their revenues. With minority communities’ economic power at an all-time high and growing, diversity, Mas said, simply good business.
“Minorities are the fastest growing segment of our population and, by the way, the youngest. Why is that important? Those are the wireless customers of the future. Carriers know that and that is where they are going find their growth in the future,” Mas said.
The other source of revenue for carriers is serving small businesses, which drive a majority of the job growth in America. “We know that minority companies are begun at a faster rate than non-minority companies,” he said. “They have grown 46 percent in the last ten years with new startups, versus 10 percent for non-minority companies. That is where our customers, the carriers, will find their customers and future growth.”
Mas’ family story is the stuff of the American dream. It all began when his father, Jorge Mas Canosa, at the age of 20 was forced into exile from Cuba, because of his outspoken opposition to the Batista and Castro dictatorships. He arrived with his wife with little means and worked as stevedore, dishwasher, milkman and shoe salesman in Miami before joining the U.S. Army and participating in the Bay of Pigs invasion. He left the military as second lieutenant and took over a failing contracting business deploying fiber underground. He turned the business around and received a 50 percent ownership stake.
Through hard work and determination, Mas said his father built the company into a dominant player in the wireline business in Florida. When Hurricane Andrew decimated the telecom and utility infrastructure, his father’s company rebuilt a lot of that infrastructure. It went public in 1994, under the name MasTec, and a national brand was created.
“Our company’s history is an example of the generosity of this country,” Mas said. “Only in America can a destitute refuge start off as a milkman and build a company which would become traded on the New York Stock Exchange and have a billion dollars in revenue. That’s the power of diversity. I am proud of my Hispanic family’s role in contributing to this society.”
MasTec, which had become a major player deploying fiber for CLECs, suffered several setbacks around the turn of the century with the passing of Mas’ father in 1997 and the collapse of the dot-com telecom bubble.
When Mas became CEO of MasTec in 2007, it was still a wireline company, and he led it through a sweeping diversification into infrastructure for renewable energy, win turbine farms, high-voltage transmission lines, oil and gas pipelines, water and sewer pipelines, and sewage treatment centers. Late in 2008, it won the bid to deploy infrastructure for AT&T in the southeast region, which accounts $1 billion in annual revenues today.
Under Mas’ leadership, MasTec’s total revenues have grown from just under $900 million up to $5 billion and the employee base has grown from 7,000 up to 18,000.
Even though MasTec has seen amazing growth and its status as a minority-owned company is no longer seen as a negative, Mas noted that progress still needs to be made.
“[Minorities] are underrepresented in the management ranks of the Fortune 500 companies. In fact, there are no diverse companies in the Fortune 500. Last year we were close, ranking 562,” he said.
Mas expressed a sense of responsibility to give back to the business community where he has been so successful. He called on other diverse companies to reach out and promote diversity. “It is easy for me to come here and ask for business and use our diversity as an edge,” he said. “What are we doing in our communities to support other diverse companies?”
Mas asserted his belief that, fundamentally, each of us is better at our jobs when we are around people that are different from us, allowing us to see things from a different perspective. “Fresh ideas. Different ideas. It makes us a lot more creative,” he said.
Following the keynote address, industry experts participated on a panel titled “Supplier Diversity: An Untapped Opportunity.” Panelists included: Flavio Rossi, senior vice president of procurement and supply chain operations for T-Mobile USA; Barbara Meserole, global diversity and inclusion/supplier diversity for Verizon; Oliver Turman, Director of AT&T supplier diversity for AT&T Services; Michael Dennis, CEO of The Big Green Company; and Tim Dunnigan, president of Talon Aerolytics.