Good Morning! Welcome to the Business Leadership Network's Corporate Leadership Award. I am Greg Babe, BLN member and Chief Information Officer for Bayer Corporation, the sponsor of today's event.

I wish to thank all of you for choosing to begin your day with us as we take the time to recognize someone sitting in our audience today who exemplifies the kind of leadership that helps BLN achieve its goal of promoting hiring practices that enable qualified people with disabilities to enter and succeed in the workplace.

Before we begin our program, I wish to acknowledge a few people who have joined us this morning -- Dr. Attila Molnar, President and Chief Executive Officer of Bayer Corporation. Welcome Dr. Molnar and thank you for your support of the BLN and this event.

Dr. Ken Melani, new Chief Executive Officer of Highmark, replacing John Brouse, who has retired. Highmark is a very active and admired BLN member. Every BLN organization is required to have a lead company. It was John Brouse who agreed to have Highmark become the lead company for Pennsylvania BLN. Thank you John, for your many contributions to this effort.

Chuck Keenan, ADA Director for the City of Pittsburgh. Chuck is here representing Mayor Tom Murphy who had planned to be here, but was unable to attend. And, a person who is an important resource for the BLN and a wonderful resource for us at Bayer, Joyce Bender, President of Bender Consulting Services.

Whether you are a long-standing member of the BLN doing your part to advance its goals; or, you are new to this event and to the BLN, you are in for more than just a good breakfast. I promise you that this morning you will be inspired awed and most importantly, motivated.

Before we start, I would like to say a few words about my own experience as a member of the BLN representing Bayer.

Being part of this network has opened doors for me and for my organization: NAFTA Information Systems.

I have met members who are deeply committed and involved in hiring talented employees of all abilities.

These members have served as a source of inspiration, an example to emulate, and true resources whom I can count on when I need advice and guidance about promoting and advancing BLN goals within my own organization.

I have been able to tap into great pools of talent and have been delighted to learn that great employees can come from many sources.

I have benefitted greatly on a personal level. But my organization, and my company Bayer, have benefitted even more.

Later in the program I will show you just a few examples of that. For now, I would like you to take me at face value when I say; being an active, committed member of this organization pays great dividends.

The BLN is driven by its business members, but it was conceived and continues to be a partnership and collaboration from various sectors, public and private, corporate and political.

I would now like to welcome to the podium the Honorable James C. Roddey, Chief Executive of Allegheny County, who will say a few words and introduce our guest speaker, Ms. Linda Dickerson.

John Brouse, BLN President and recently retired CEO of Highmark, recently commented that having known Linda for more than five years, he had found only two things that were greater than her business accumen and common sense. Those two things are her humility, and her concern for others. She is a very generous person, he said. I wholeheartedly agree. Thank you Linda, for your generosity and your inspiring words.

And now I want to turn the floor over to a person who has been a great inspiration to me and to others in the BLN.

Those who know her will attest to her great character and her enviable leadership qualities. I consider myself fortunate for knowing her.

Through her company, Bender Consulting Services, we at Bayer have been able to recruit several qualified, motivated, excellent employees. Please help me welcome Joyce Bender.

The time has come to recognize an individual who is an example for all of us of the commitment and dedication that can help employers throughout Pennsylvania to cast away misconceptions and stereotypes and to begin benefiting from the talent, character and high-motivation that employees with disabilities can offer.

He has tirelessly promoted the hiring of people with disabilities in his organization. Thanks in part to his efforts; his company is enjoying the benefits of employing 70 skilled and highly-motivated employees in competitive jobs. Ty Alexander sets the standard to which we all aspire.

Before we leave, I would like to take a moment to talk about the reasons why Bayer and the BLN asked you to join us today.

As business leaders, the actions we take every day have a strong impact on our organization. We are used to wielding influence, setting the tone, and defining expectations for our business and our staff.

In the post 9/11 economy, - with its accounting scandals and stories of corporate excess - we have all come to realize just how important those daily actions and decisions really are.

The unethical activities of a relative few have resulted in the loss of employees' career aspirations, retirement plans, economic stability; and, perhaps more damaging, a loss in investor confidence that has had ripples throughout the world. Some have predicted it will influence the way people invest for a generation.

All of us are feeling the impact of the post 9/11 economy and business climate. But we must continue to support those things that we know are good for our business and right for the community at large.

Like many of you here, I am being asked to do more with less. Budgets are tightening up, but the clients we serve continue to demand our services, even as they ask us to cut costs.

At the start of the program, I promised to share with you a few examples of how Bayer has benefitted from being a BLN member.

Last year, my organization employed five consultants through Bender Consulting Services. This year that number is up to nine.

Tapping into contract employment services is an important way for us to meet the unrelenting demand for services, while keeping fixed costs from rising.

By working with the BLN and Bender I have benefitted from great employees who are lending their abilities in areas as diverse as help desk services, SAP system support, procurement and others.

I want to take a brief moment to acknowledge some of the employees who are sitting in the audience today. We have Michael Gravitt, Leslie Grimes, Bob Mike, Frank Noah, and Gregg Myrga. I also want to mention that just last week two Bender Consulting employees were selected as winners of our 2002 Service Management Award. These two employees: John Snyder and Theresa Ulizio were selected based on nominations by their Bayer colleagues who recognized them for their teamwork and their ability and willingness to assist with Service Desk issues. John and Theresa are just two examples of the kind of motivation and attitude that we at Bayer have benefitted from by tapping into this pool of talent.

I believe that our partnership with Bender in the help desk area has given me a competitive advantage to providing top rate service to my internal and external customers at Bayer.

The skills of our Bender employees and combined with their higher than average attendance rates, their reliability and their higher level of motivation have contributed to a help desk with turnover rates far lower than the industry standard.

In a recent conversation, John Brouse said something similar about the employees with disabilities working in his organization.

"I don't know what it is," said John, "but our experience with these employees is that they are reliable and highly motivated. Is it a desire to prove themselves? What is it?"

I don't know the answer to that. But I know that Bayer benefits from that motivation and from the contributions of employees like John, Theresa, Michael, Leslie, Bob, Frank, Gregg, and others like them. And I am thankful for that.

So, in wrapping up, I wish to be blunt:
If you are a BLN member: I want to thank you again for staying committed. Ask yourself: Am I doing the most I can to fulfill my responsibilities as a member?
Am I taking advantage of the resources available to me to tap into the talents of people with disabilities?
Am I working within my own organization to raise awareness so that managers and other employees can work more effectively with employees who have disabilities.

Finally, remember that part of our success lies in growing our membership ranks. So ask yourself:

Have I talked to the people I interact with regularly about the BLN and the benefits my business has gained by being a member? Now, to those of you who are not members, remember, I promised to be blunt: We want you among our ranks. I am certain, based on my own experience, that you have a great deal to gain from being an active BLN member.

Providing jobs is one way that your organization can help qualified people with disabilities enjoy the freedoms that many of us take for granted: having an apartment, taking a vacation, owning a car.

Organizations like the BLN are good examples of what we can accomplish when we bring together the minds and hearts of people from all spheres, public and private, and work collaboratively to address issues.

Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have about joining this organization. And thank you, for your time, for your attentiveness, for your consideration and your contributions.