NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 15, 2017) – Small business leaders did not expect to find cupid during the 6th Annual Small Business Industry Day at the Tennessee Small Business Development Center today, but they did seem to love one-on-one attention using the speed-dating concept to forge greater relationships with federal agencies and large businesses.
According to Roy Rossignol, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Small Business chief, the event at Tennessee State University’s Avon Williams Campus focused on service disabled veteran owned small businesses, but love was apparently in the air when about 20-25 businesses were paired with federal agencies and large contractors for about eight minutes each during an afternoon speed-dating affair.
“Everyone that did the speed dating were very much enriched. I can’t give them a contract, but I can position them and inform them and get them ready so they can bid and possibly get a contract. That’s truly my purpose,” Rossignol said. “I think it was quite successful.”
Throughout the day, small business leaders networked with their peers, large businesses, and federal agencies such as the Small Business Administration, Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime, Tennessee Valley Authority, Veterans Affairs, various U.S. Army installations, National Aerospace Solutions at Arnold Air Force Base, NASA, America’s SBDC Tennessee, University of Tennessee Procurement Technical Assistance Center, and Center for Industrial Services. The Corps of Engineers had representatives from the Nashville District, Mobile District, Louisville District, Huntington District, and Great Lakes and Ohio River Division.
Participants also took advantage of an opportunity in the main auditorium to take in several presentations that were given with a focus on service disabled veteran owned small businesses.
Retired Navy Cmdr. Paul Rollinson, president of XCEL Engineering in Oak Ridge, Tenn., spoke about his experiences during the Vietnam War and thoughts about finding success in business.
His business has won numerous awards and has excelled in regulatory compliance, air quality and environmental assessment, remediation, engineering design and analysis, construction management, and the list goes on. But much of his great reputation is rooted in his 25 years of naval service, where he earned a bronze star with valor, five air medals, and received two Purple Hearts for wounds in combat.
“My tours in Vietnam were probably what really shaped me into the way I look at things today,” Rollinson said. “The experience you get with the military, the bonds that you made with the military, the leadership skills that you pick up and learn from”… these are things that prepared him for his future in business, he added.
Rollinson said his business has been supporting work at Fort Campbell, Ky., since the 1990s and other various projects for the Corps of Engineers in the Memphis, Nashville and Louisville districts. He stressed that it is important to team with the Corps and other businesses to get the work done right.
“What I would like to point out is our success is because we are a partner with the Corps of Engineers, and we look at that as a very important partnership,’ Rollinson said. “It’s a partnership where we make sure that clients come back. Hopefully the reason they want to use the Corps is partially because of the type of work that you do in working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”
Representatives of the U.S. Small Business Administration then provided information about the SBA Mentor-Protégé Program, where the SBA helps to develop strong protégé firms through mentor-provided business development assistance, and to help protégés successfully compete for government contracts. The SBA began accepting applications for this program Oct. 1, 2016.
“Under the new mentor-protégé rules, your mentor can invest up to 40 percent into your firm in an equity interest of up to 40 percent. That’s huge. That’s a big deal for these protégés because now they can really capture some money,” said Michelle Kantor, a lawyer with McDonald-Hopkins.
LaTanya Channel, director of SBA Tennessee District, added that it’s important for small businesses to know the process for submitting mentor-protégé agreements.
“As of last week SBA has approved 100 mentor-protégé agreements,” Channel said. “The SBA website has basic information on eligibility. It also has the standard template that SBA has already created for this program for any small business.”
The program benefits small businesses because they can lean on the experience of a prime contractor, equipment, capabilities, and bonding capacity to take on larger projects.
A panel of experts then culminated the morning’s presentations with greater insight about construction bonding for small businesses.
David Rose of the Rose Law Firm, Greg Nash, Bonds Southeast, Jen Littlejohn, director of community citizenship with Turner Construction, and James Threalkill, Sims Diversity Consultants, participated on the panel and answered questions.
Nash explained that bonds are not insurance but rather a third-party guarantee to a government entity that is required by law that ensures the work will be completed and all bills paid under a contract.
“The only reason you would want one is because you can’t go get the jobs to work to make the money that you know how to do unless you have a bond,” Nash said.
Kathy Scarbrough, owner of Mighty Muscle Cleaning in Birmingham, Ala., served 20 years in information technology in the U.S. Navy and said the day’s activities were extremely valuable to her as a service disabled veteran, even though her business already has already had contracts with the Veteran’s Administration and General Services Administration.
“Being a service disabled veteran owned business right here right now is a great opportunity, especially for me,” Scarbrough said. “Events like this help me forecast my whole year as far as contracting, what contracts I want to go after, what month they are going to come out, who I need to talk to.”
Retired Lt. Gen. Robert Flowers, well known in Corps of Engineers for his service and leadership as the 50th chief of engineers, also attended and praised the organizers for putting on a first-class presentation for small businesses.
“This is a wonderful opportunity and I really salute the Nashville District for always putting on quality small business shows,” Flowers said. “There are a lot of people who are intimidated trying to do business with the government. And so by having venues like this where people can come in, network with people face to face, find out how to do things, it’s marvelous.”
Approximately 280 business leaders took advantage of Industry Day activities to learn more about how to do business with the government and to network, some which took advantage of the speed dating matchmaking opportunity.
Rossignol said he thought the people who did the speed dating appreciated the opportunity to present their business, be able to interact with the various government agencies and prime contractors, and to learn about the government procurement system.
He said he stayed focused and personally armed 12 small businesses with advice on how to utilize the Federal Business Opportunities website to find Corps of Engineers opportunities where they can submit proposals.
“What usually takes me an hour I did in eight minutes,” Rossignol said about each matchmaking engagement.
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)