The largest small business initiative in the history of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the Business Matchmaking program provides a way for America's small businesses to secure one-on-one meetings with procurement officials from federal, state and local government organizations.
The series of regional business-to-business events, spawned by a union of the SBA and Hewlett-Packard (HP), is a way for the federal agency to deliver procurement opportunities, normally limited to select geographic areas, directly to "Main Street America."
This week the SBA announced the Business Matchmaking initiative, first introduced last year, would continue on a national tour through the fall of 2004. Six Business Matchmaking events have been held since the inception of the SBA-HP partnership early in 2003, resulting in more than 14,500 face-to-face meetings between small business owners and procurement officials to date.
This year's series of matchmaking events and procurement workshops, designed to prepare small businesses for doing business with large corporations and government agencies, kicked off in February at Anaheim, Calif. More than 3,200 one-on-one meetings were held between 190 individual buyers and 927 small businesses.
The next stop for Business Matchmaking tour will be a procurement workshop in Cincinnati, Ohio on April 20. After the "Buckeye State" the SBA-HP road show will travel to the "Sunshine State," to hold an expanded version of the Business Matchmaking event in Orlando, Fla. in tandem with the SBA's annual small business expo. Future dates for other Business Matchmaking events have yet to be revealed, but expect to see opportunities to participate in regional events to be held sometime in June at Detroit, July and August in Philadelphia, and in September at Austin, Texas and Los Angeles.
According to the SBA, previous events held throughout the country last year resulted in millions of dollars in contracts awarded to small business participants. For example, Texas-based industrial supplier and integrator Best Products was recently awarded a $2.5 million agreement with Maryland-based government contractor BAE Systems, one of the world's largest aerospace and defense companies.
Donnie McDaniel, Best Products vice president, said Business Matchmaking works for small businesses.
"I was hooked on the program after I first participated in Washington, D.C. and have now attended two additional events, which resulted in a significant contract and important contacts which I anticipate will lead to further growth," McDaniel said,
McDaniel is just one of many small business executives who are singing the praises of the Business Matchmaking program. Mary Hamill, Global-5 president, an Orlando-based public relations firm, secured $5.5 million in contracts with two buyers at the 2003 Orlando event.
SBA Administrator Hector V. Barreto credits the federal agency's partnership with HP as the key to making the Matchmaking Events so successful.
"These events could not have happened without the strong partnership between HP and the SBA," Barreto said. "We're already seeing the tremendous economic impact Business Matchmaking has had on small business from our first series of events in 2003, and are continuously adding more enhancements to the initiative to allow for more opportunities and open up more doors."
Half-day workshops in 2004 will once again include expert counseling and educational seminars to prepare small businesses to do business with government agencies and major corporations. New to the program this year, participating small businesses will have online access to numerous corporate and government contract opportunities through the Small Business Networking Center (SBNC).
Through the SBNC, businesses that have attended a Business Matchmaking Workshop program will be able to make appointments for phone interviews with procurement officials outside of Business Matchmaking regional events, saving buyers and sellers time and money by eliminating the need to travel to each event. It will also increase the number of appointments each small business will be allowed.
HP expects that the enhanced Business Matchmaking online resource will allow for greater buyer participation and increase the number of one-on-one appointments small businesses can schedule with potential contractors. Robyn West, HP small and medium business vice president, said HP was just doing its part, recognizing the importance of the company's public and private partnership with the SBA.
"HP got its start as a small business so we recognize the importance of providing small businesses with access to new opportunities, information and the resources necessary to sustain and grow their businesses," West said.
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