NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 8, 2012) – More than 200 business owners and reps from as far away as California traveled to the Tennessee State University Avon Williams Campus today to garner information on federal, state and local procurement systems. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District small business, contracting, engineering and operations experts got down to business, using the event to explain Corps project opportunities to participants of the Small Business Training Forum.
Dr. Tilden Curry, dean of the Tennessee State University Business College, talked right away about the university’s support for small business and working adults, and welcomed small business representatives to the Avon Williams campus.
“Our business school serves about 1,000 students. Our mission is to educate them to be business leaders of the future and business professionals in some of the business disciplines,” Curry said. “We also have a strong research component. We also think we have a strong public service responsibility, and we rely on the Small Business Development Center and our Incubation Center across the street to help us provide that service to Nashville. We do focus primarily on small business development.”
After Curry’s remarks, Lt. Col. James A. DeLapp, Nashville District commander and Society of American Military Engineers Nashville Post president, also welcomed the service, manufacturing, supply and construction sectors in attendance.
“Some of you have done business with the federal government, including the Nashville and Louisville Districts, while others are new to federal procurement,” DeLapp said. “Our objective today is to let you know what tools and assistance are available. And if you are already doing business with federal, state and local governments, hopefully you will learn something new that can help with your business endeavors.”
DeLapp then introduced the keynote speaker, Mayor Karl Dean, the sixth mayor of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County.
Dean talked about a good relationship with the Corps of Engineers Nashville District and thanked TSU for the opportunity to speak to the business leaders.
The mayor said having the small business resources available at TSU is critical to the economic development of the city and state and to small businesses as they start up and grow.
“Across the state this center has assisted more than 80,000 small businesses,” Dean noted. “Starting and growing a small business as you know is not an easy proposition, except for those kind of rare, serial entrepreneurial people. Most people only start a business only once or twice in their lifetimes. And that’s why it’s so helpful to have guys on this process like the folks from the Tennessee Small Business Development Center. I greatly appreciate the work that you do to help citizens of our community realize their dreams of owning their own business and therefore fuel the economy of Nashville.”
The mayor stressed the importance of training and catering to small businesses as they employ more than 300,000 people alone in Nashville.
Following the mayor, Mike Wilson, Nashville District deputy for Programs and Project Management, provided an overview of the district’s projects and contracting opportunities. The participants then asked questions, and spent time networking and meeting with contracting and government representatives in booths just outside of the TSU auditorium.
Roy Rossignol, Nashville District Small Business manager, said TSBDC and the Society of American Military Engineers sponsored the event. However, numerous businesses and organizations like the Corps participated to put business resources altogether under one roof, he said.
The businesses that attended met with vendors, networked with other businesses, interacted with government agencies, and picked topics of interest during three breakout training sessions throughout the forum.
“I feel so blessed that there’s this many people that work together with us,” said Karen Dorroll, general contractor and owner of Jabez Group Indeed, Inc. “There is no charge for it and it is extraordinary information. It’s really good. I feel like it is like going down the runway and I’m at takeoff, and there are just so many opportunities.”
Dorroll said she attended courses available free through the TSBDC and one year later she is involved with Tennessee Department of Transportation projects and learning how to bid on contracts as a women-owned business.
Other businesses new to the federal procurement system talked about the value of having events like this that reduce the red tape that businesses perceive make it difficult to do business with the government.
Clark Willey, a business development manager at TPM Group in Bowling Green, Ky., said his company is just going through the initial process of doing business with the federal government and values events like this training seminar that helps unlock processes and provides a forum for networking.
“A lot of this is teaming and gives us an opportunity to shake hands with and be introduced with potential partners in a nice casual environment,” Willey explained.
Willey said having federal resources readily available is another huge reason for coming and interacting with officials from agencies like the Corps of Engineers.
“If you get online and try to dance your way through the website… it’s awfully difficult,” Willey said. “But when you have people who can give you hands on right here, it makes it a lot easier.”
Mark Cashio, small business liaison for the SAME Nashville Post, said his organization partnered with the Fort Campbell SAME Post and TSU, and cooperated with the Nashville District to provide business resources that these business owners relish.
Cashio said the event brings small businesses together and is a conduit to federal procurement information from the Corps of Engineers and Small Business Administration. And it’s a platform where SAME can introduce the many aspects of the organization such as professional development in architecture, construction, engineering, environmental and management.
SAME also offered professional development hours in topic areas such as sustainability, hydropower, energy and environmental policy, good toward certification and continuing education for professional engineers.
“We think we had an excellent turnout and participation for our first opportunity and we hope this will become an annual event,” Cashio said.
Rossignol said the participants received contracting forecasts from the Nashville District, Louisville District and the Huntsville Engineering and Support Center – a “triple whammy” of opportunity.
“Federal contracting is very formidable. It requires a lot of moving pieces and a lot of certifications,” Rossignol said.
He said subject matter experts from the Government Services Agency and SBA were also available along with commercial bonding experts to provide information during breakout training sessions. And they had ample time with Corps representatives.
“We’re very excited about this opportunity to have this many small businesses to come out and participate in this first event,” Rossignol said.