Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder and president of Rainbow PUSH Coalition; Harriet R. Michel, president, NMSDC; and NMSDC Master of Ceremonies and honorary chair Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr.

*The National Minority Supplier Development Council’s (NMSDC) – one of the country’s leading corporate membership organizations — minority business leadership awards dinner-dance on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at the Hilton New York and Towers in New York City was an emotional one for Harriet R. Michel as she steps down as president of this esteemed organization that provides a direct link between corporate America and Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American-owned businesses.

Boy, what a difference a few years make.  Back in 2008, when Michel handed in her retirement papers, she was asked by the board to remain as the organization’s top executive due to hard economic times.  The pretty lady said yes and stayed on to champion for small business owners and to assist in the transition of Joset B. Wright who will become NMSDC’s new president effective July 1, 2010.

More than 1,400 guests including CEOs and executives of Fortune 500 corporations and minority business owners nationwide attended the elegant event and to bid farewell to NMSDC’s First Lady and to applaud three outstanding business leaders for their exemplary achievements in minority business development at its minority business leadership awards dinner-dance.

Business leaders Michael Duke, president & chief executive officer, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.; Ralph G. Moore, president of Chicago-based Ralph G. Moore & Associates; and Fred Ruiz, chairman emeritus, Ruiz Food Products, Inc. were singled out for their significant long-term achievements.

“This year’s honorees demonstrate the value of hard work and perseverance, the multi-generational success of a family-owned business, and the commitment to supplier diversity of the world’s top retailer,” said Michel.  “We congratulate them on their success and the value they bring to corporate America and the customers they serve.”

Honorary chairman and Master of Ceremonies Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr., chairman and CEO Magic Johnson Enterprises; NMSDC board member Lisa Martin, senior vice president, worldwide procurement, Pfizer; honoree Ralph G. Moore, president, Ralph G. Moore & Associates; NMSDC president Harriet R. Michel; NMSDC board member Richard A. Hughes, chief purchasing officer, Procter & Gamble Co.; honoree Fred Ruiz, chairman emeritus, Ruiz Food Products, Inc.; and Thomas Mars, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, Wal-Mart, Inc. who accepted on behalf of honoree Michael Duke, president and chief excutive oficer, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Michael Duke is president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores, the world’s No. 1 retailer. The company has sales of $408 billion, more than 8,000 stores in 15 countries and employs more than 2.1 million associates worldwide. In its fiscal year ended January 2010, Wal-Mart spent $2.75 billion with 325 Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American businesses.

Wal-Mart’s minority suppliers include ASW Global, Fair Oaks Farms, Fidelity Print Communications, GlobalHue, Glory Foods, Mega Toys, Ruiz Foods, Shore Acres Plant Farm and Vizio. Wal-Mart also encourages its major suppliers to join NMSDC and to increase their supplier diversity opportunities.

Wal-Mart holds Minority Construction Summits for firms interested in working on construction of new stores, the remodeling of existing stores ad conducting facility maintenance program. The corporation also held a Carrier Relations Minority Summit, Business-to-Business Seminars and other supplier events across the country, giving diverse suppliers the opportunity to meet with Wal-Mart and Sam’s club buyers. Thomas Mars, the company’s executive vice president and chief administrative officer, accepted the award on behalf of Mr. Duke.

Ralph G. Moore is president of Ralph G. Moore & Associates, a Chicago-based consulting firm that he founded in 1979.  A recognized leader in the field of supplier diversity, RGMA has successfully developed and evaluated supplier diversity programs for both public and private-sector entities.  Through NMSDC seminars and other RGMA training events, thousands of supplier diversity professionals and buyers have learned new tools and effective processes to improve minority supplier development as well as to increase spend with Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American suppliers.

Michel Family: Christopher Michel and his wife Michell Tollinchi Michel, Harriet R. Michel and her husband Yves Michel and Valerie Michel and her husband Gregory Michel

The national impact of the company’s work spans three decades. Its clients have included Archer Daniels Midland, BP, The Boeing Company, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Chicago Public Schools, Harley-Davidson, IBM, Illinois Department of Transportation, Major League Baseball, Prudential Financial, Sprint, Time Warner, United Airlines and Wal-Mart Stores.

Mr. Moore is a director of several emerging firms and provides active leadership in a number of business development and civic organizations, including Junior Achievement of Chicago. In addition, Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed Mr. Moore to serve as a trustee to the City Colleges of Chicago in 1994. Mr. Moore is also a trustee of the University of Chicago Hospitals and Health Systems

Frederick Ruiz is the chairman emeritus of Dinuba, California-based Ruiz Food Products— the largest manufacturer of frozen Mexican food in the United States.  The company has annual sales of $453 million and 2,500 employees (80% are minorities). Ruiz Food is the second largest Hispanic-owned manufacturing company in the United States, according to Hispanic Business magazine.

NMSDC honorees Fred Ruiz and Ralph G. Moore, NMSDC's president Harriet R. Michel, MC Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr. and Thomas Mars

Mr. Ruiz and his father, Louis, started the company in a garage in 1964, using his mother’s recipes. Under the El Monterey and Tornados brand names, Ruiz Food now offers more than 200 different products including burritos, taquitos, enchiladas and tamales.  Ruiz

Food sells in all channels of distribution:  retail, convenience store, clubs, vending, industrial and foodservice.  In addition to nationwide distribution in the U.S., Ruiz Food also sells its products in 20 countries, including Canada, Costa Rica, Japan and Panama.

Mr. Ruiz serves as a director of Gottschalk’s and The McClatchy Company. He is chairman of the California Chamber of Commerce and vice chairman of the Board of the University of California, Merced. He is a director of the Hispanic College Fund, the Institute for Family Business and the Merced Foundation.

Mr. Ruiz helped his employees establish Ruiz 4 Kids, a non-profit employee volunteer organization designed to help children in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Ruiz Foods also provides contributions and sponsorships for organizations such as Arte America, Fresno Metropolitan Museum, Hispanic Business Student Association, Norteno Festival and the United Way.

Filmmaker and director Spike Lee and Rainbow PUSH Coalition founder and president Rev. Jesse Jackson

Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Magic Johnson Enterprises, served as master of ceremonies and chairman of the honorary dinner-dance committee that included more than 170 chairmen of America’s top corporations including AT&T, Allstate, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Chevron, Chrysler, Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Eastman Kodak, Ford, Hilton, J.C. Penney, Johnson & Johnson, Marriott, Merck, Nestlé, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Raytheon, Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing, and United Technologies.

Audrey J. Bernard

Entertainment was provided by jazz soloist Wycliffe Gordon who opened the evening with a rousing rendition of America the Beautiful; George Gee and the George Gee Orchestra; Luisito Ayala and his orchestra who performed during the chairman’s reception held prior to the dinner-dance; and swing dancers Heidi Roseneau and Joe McGlynn who provided entertainment throughout the evening.

Michel who looked stunning in a b michael creation was joined by her handsome husband Yves Michel and their two good-looking sons Christopher and Gregory Michel and their beautiful wives Michell Tollinchi Michel and Valerie Michel.

The NMDSDC is one of the country’s leading corporate membership organizations.  It was chartered in 1972 to provide increased procurement and business opportunities for minority businesses of all sizes and includes a national office in New York and 37 Regional Councils across the country.

There are 3,500 corporate members throughout the network, including America’s top publicly-owned, privately-owned and foreign-owned companies as well as universities, hospitals and other buying institutions.  The Regional Councils certify and match more than 16,000 Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American businesses with member corporations that want to purchase their goods and services.

The NMSDC Network includes a national office in New York and 37 Regional Councils across the country.  It was chartered in 1972 to provide increased procurement and business opportunities for minority businesses of all sizes. For more information about NMSDC, call (212) 944-2430 or visit the Web site at www.nmsdc.org(Photos courtesy Corky Lee and Lonnie Major for NMSDC)

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.