Denise L. Nappier is no stranger to the word of finance.
She is the first African American woman to serve as a state’s treasurer. First elected in 1998 — and again in 2002 and 2006 — Nappier is also the first woman of any race to be elected to that post in Connecticut.
As the state’s chief financial officer, Nappier oversees $50 billion in state funds, including $26 billion in Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds. Nappier has also received credit for recovering more than $1 billion through the state’s asset and recovery program. Most important, her administration is widely perceived as one that has a solid commitment to diversifying the ranks of Connecticut’s business partners by adding more minority- and women-owned firms.
It is little surprise, then, that Nappier will be the keynote speaker at next Friday night’s “Business Opportunity Expo” at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods Casino and Resort. Expected to attract more than 500 companies and 200 corporate and minority business exhibitors, the event is sponsored by the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council (GNEMSDC).
At the start of 2009, the New England Minority Supplier Development Council, a 35-year-old Boston-based nonprofit, merged with its Connecticut counterpart to form the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council (GNEMSDC). The organization is now headquartered in Hamden, Conn. Fred McKinney, who had been president of the Connecticut council since 2001, is its president and CEO.
The GNEMSDC is an affiliate of the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), a network of 38 regional councils across the country that boasts over 3,500 total corporate members and more than 15,000 certified minority-owned businesses in its network. Last year, the NMSDC facilitated $104.7 billion in corporate member purchases from minority-owned business enterprises (MBEs).
But while the council’s scope, base of operations and leader changed at the start of this year, McKinney said its mission will remain the same — helping certified minority-owned businesses connect to large corporations so that they can grow.
“We provide sales and marketing assistance to certified minority businesses who have an interest in selling goods and services to large corporations, government agencies, health care institutions and other organizations,” McKinney said. “And minority businesses come in all different industries and sizes, from professional services to manufacturing to business services to financial services — you name it, you’ve got minority businesses in those industries.”
The merger, which the boards of the two regional affiliates agreed to last November, brought minority supplier development efforts for all six New England states — Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont — under one roof.
On top of that, said McKinney, it also significantly increased the pool of certified MBEs and corporate partners that are members of the council.
“Large corporations are not the easiest things in the world to get through. Our contacts are people who can get through, who can assist those minority business enterprises and help to speed up the sales process,” McKinney said. “We don’t guarantee that minority businesses certified in our organization are going to get business. But we can guarantee that they’ll get access.”
That last point is critical, McKinney said, noting that some business owners operate under the misconception that merely pursuing certification as an MBE means corporate contracts will start flying their way.
Nappier is no stranger to hard work and commitment to excellence. Widely respected by her peers, she was re-elected as treasurer of the National Association of State Treasurers and is a board member of the Connecticut chapter of the National Association of Corporate Directors. She is the first public fund investor to serve in that capacity.
The Hartford native previously served as Hartford city treasurer for nearly 10 years, and as executive director of Hartford’s Riverfront Recapture. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Virginia State University and a master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati.
Nappier was named as one of the nation’s 100 Most Influential People in Finance by Treasury & Risk Management magazine and one of the 50 Most Powerful Black Women in Business by Black Enterprise. She has also received the Corporate Responsibility Leadership Award from Citizens for Economic Opportunity and the Good Housekeeping magazine Award for Women in Government, in recognition of her advocacy of responsible corporate behavior and high ethical standards.