Minority-owned consulting firm MPI of Blue Ash goes global in partnership with multinational Aon PLC

Cincinnati USA's accelerator lays groundwork

BLUE ASH, Ohio -- It’s not often that a business in the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s Minority Business Accelerator becomes a partner with a large, global company.

That’s why Robert LaMothe, portfolio manager for about half of the 32 companies in the accelerator, was so excited to announce Blue Ash-based MPI Consulting’s new partnership with Aon Cornerstone, a business unit of London, England-based Aon PLC.

“It’s a validation,” he said. “It’s a recognition of the talent that’s housed within that minority business. … It brings that global commerce feel to the region, which is always good.”

MPI netted the partnership without help from the accelerator staff, he said, so the accelerator could take only indirect credit. But that speaks to the strength of MPI, he said.

“We didn’t have a role in making this happen,” he said, but added: “It’s the kind of things we teach and encourage other companies to do.”

Companies need to continually look for strategic outlets for their offerings, he said, not just in the region but around the country.

“This one is unique because it has a global window to it,” he said. “This company took us to the next level.”

It took almost three years of negotiations between Aon and human resources consultant MPI to make the partnership happen, MPI CEO and owner John Hawkins said.

Hawkins serves on the board of directors for the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati and the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce with an Aon vice president, who told him about a new program the company launched to develop relationships with female-owned and minority-owned companies.

After applying for the program 18 months ago and undergoing a long vetting process, MPI signed the agreement in September, Hawkins said.

The partnership gives MPI access to resources, capabilities and markets it otherwise wouldn’t have, Hawkins said, and the opportunity to do joint ventures with Aon and its customers.

For Aon, it gives that company access to expertise that MPI has but it doesn’t, including in labor relations. On its website, MPI says it has worked on more than 350 labor-organizing campaigns, with a more-than 90 percent success rate in keeping clients union-free. It specializes in human resources and organizational development consulting.

Aon is one of the world’s largest risk-management companies, Hawkins said, and labor issues are a huge area of potential risk for any company.

MPI, which has been in business for 42 years, recently purchased its first building in Blue Ash, where it had previously been renting, Hawkins said.

The company has eight to 10 full-time employees and another 20 to 25 part-time and contract employees, he said. It has clients in 26 states and in five countries. He declined to disclose revenue figures.

The Minority Business Accelerator was founded in 2003 to drive economic activity for local African-American and Hispanic-owned businesses and increase employment in underemployed areas.

The accelerator works to identify Goal Setters, which are large corporations interested in diversifying their supply chains. The chamber reports that in 2014, Goal Setter firms grew their spending with firms in the accelerator portfolio to $1.1 billion.

One of the biggest obstacles to minority-owned companies growing their business is awareness, LaMothe said. Although none of the companies in the portfolio are startups, many are first-generation, he said, and are not that widely known.

“We feel confident that once they are identified as vendors, we have done the capacity-building and they have done a lot of the strategic, foundational work that positions them to seize the opportunity,” he said.

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