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Forum highlights small businesses for networking opportunities

Nashville District Public Affairs
Published March 6, 2020
Photos by Mark Rankin

Susan Nicholson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Small Business chief, provides contracting forecast information with participants of the 10th Annual Small Business Industry Day March 5, 2020 at Tennessee State University’s Avon Williams Campus in Nashville, Tenn.

Photos by Mark Rankin

Dani Harrison, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District contracting specialist, provides contracting information to Brad Moffett, during the 10th Annual Small Business Industry Day March 5, 2020 at Tennessee State University’s Avon Williams Campus in Nashville, Tenn.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 6, 2020) – More than 200 business owners and managers visited Music City today in Nashville for the 10th Annual Small Business Industry Day at Tennessee State University Avon Williams Campus.

Small and large business leaders attended the event featuring highlighted presentations related to small businesses Networking and Information Exchange. This year the district highlighted Small Business Outreach, networking and Interaction.

The Nashville District Small Business Office participated and worked to educate business professionals about available tools and resources, and provided information on how to get assistance with the procurement process.

Participants also met in designated classrooms with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District officials to learn specifics about the Nashville District’s missions and projects, gain access to Corps experts and decision makers, and learn about what the Corps is planning in the future.

Participants had access to Lt. Col. Sonny Avichal, Nashville District commander, Lt. Col. Justin Toole, Nashville District deputy commander, and other district officials who provided information and answered questions.

“We are glad you are here,’ said Avichal during his opening remarks. “The Department of the Army and Corps of Engineers are very committed to small businesses and helping you succeed.

The event provided a broad range of information and allow participants to network, visit exhibits, attend panel discussions, and meet with Corps of Engineers experts in operations, recreation, contracting, hydropower, construction, planning, water management, engineering, project management, planning, legal, and safety.

“Today was a fabulous day for small businesses,” said Susan Nicholson, Nashville District Small Business chief.  “Our main focus was to create an environment to help position them where they might find an opportunity to work with other companies.  The goal is to meet federal agencies or learn procedures to bid on federal opportunities with the Corps.  This allowed them to understand the capabilities that we can use to meet and interact with USACE decision makers and senior leaders.”

Nicholson said after the morning group assembly and keynote address, during the second half of the conference, the purpose of allowing interaction is to provide direct access to leadership and to Corps officials most knowledgeable about the district’s operations, missions, and future requirements, which is a time saver and incredible opportunity for those who worked the room to network and establish relationships.  

Shawn Ralston of the AECOM company and Scott Dobbs from Heeter Geotechnical construction gave keynote addresses and talked about working with large businesses, the importance of communication, approach, interaction and engaging large businesses for subcontracting.

“Our goal was to help these companies understand the most effective ways to approach, engage and navigate business with large companies,” said Ralston. “It is our goal to answer any questions they may have to meet their business goals.”

Throughout the day, small business leaders networked with their peers, large businesses, and federal agencies, and toured exhibits from the Small Business Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Tennessee Valley Authority, Heeter Construction, Veterans Affairs, NASA, Society of American Military Engineers Nashville Post, Tennessee State University Procurement, U.S. Air Force Arnold Air Force Base, Barr Group, AECOM, Terracon, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge Associated Universities, SBA Tennessee District Office, PTAC, and Y-12 Consolidated Nuclear Services.   The Corps of Engineers provided participants with information and contracting forecasts for the Nashville District, Mobile District, Louisville District, and the Huntington District.

Mariah Sargent, a business development representative from Shearer & Associates, Inc., in Huntsville, Ala., said she came to network, diversify and interact with other companies and the Corps of Engineers.  The opportunity will allow her company to support federal contracts and meet new client.

“I like the idea of having the opportunity to talk face-to-face and ask questions,” said Sargent.  “There is so many businesses that have the same intention and look to get key information but don’t have help.  This is very helpful and it helps us understand how we can support the Corps and other prime contractors.”

Holly Ridley, from Moor and Moor Delivery is a new woman owned small business and said she appreciates the opportunity to gain exposure, have easy access to ask questions directly with federal and other company representatives and see which benefits her needs for growth.

“This is a great way to help determine if we fit a specific company needs and they fit ours,” said Ridley. “We are interacting to determine if it’s a good fit for us and is this an opportunity that helps us reach goals and grow.”

George Morgan, president of Morgan and Morgan Engineering in Nashville, Tenn., said his company already works with several federal agencies in Tennessee but has been looking to work with GSA and this and this event allowed him to network, and talk with contracting reps, which helps with putting his business in position to navigate the procurement system and to bid on future contracts involving engineering and surveying.

“This is the opportunity I’ve been looking for,” said Morgan.  “We signed up late but I’m glad we set aside time to come,” Morgan said.

Nicholson gave special thanks to Dr. Ruthie Reynolds, TSU Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, for hosting the events and welcoming the many visitors to the Avon Williams Campus.  

(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. Small business can also get information about the Nashville District’s Small Business Office at http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/Business-With-Us/Small-Business/.)