NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 17, 2016) – More than 350 business owners and managers visited Music City today to get more in tune with federal, state and local procurement systems during the 5th Annual Small Business Training Forum at the Tennessee State University Avon Williams Campus.
The Tennessee State University Small Business Development Center, University of Tennessee Center for Industrial Services Procurement Technical Assistance Center, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District partnered and organized the event with the theme “Women-Owned Small Business.”
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.
Lt. Col. Stephen Murphy, Nashville District commander, said the objective of the forum is to make sure small businesses can network and are better equipped to participate in the federal procurement process.
“The Department of the Army and Corps of Engineers are very committed to small businesses,” Murphy said. “Sometimes getting work with the Army, with the Corps, seems like a daunting experience. But the Corps’ small business mission statement includes the statement, ‘Developing small businesses and maximizing their opportunities to participate in our procurements thereby ensuring a broad base of capable suppliers to support the Corps of Engineers’ mission and strengthen our nation’s economic development.’”
Building on that statement, the 43 Corps of Engineers districts are challenged and directed to award specific percentages of contracts every year to small businesses, he said.
“The key takeaway,” Murphy said, “is that the Corps is very serious about maximizing your opportunities. So I think if you are here today, you definitely have an opportunity. And if not with the Nashville District, then regionally with the Corps or nationally.”
To help small businesses through the process, Murphy gave his five points or the “so what” takeaways from the federal procurement perspective that would be useful to businesses trying to receive federal contracts.
Murphy emphasized that small businesses need to read solicitation packages carefully and understand the requirements, terms and conditions. He said it’s also important to refer to the solicitation regarding questions and point of contact; to register in the System of Award Management, to provide the best price and proposal the first time; and to be aware of all safety requirements to be able to provide an acceptable prevention plan if awarded a contract.
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry also spoke and welcomed everyone to the small business forum and noted how there is an incredible climate now in Music City for small business, entrepreneurs, and creatives.
“I really believe that that’s the backbone of how Nashville has to continue to grow and prosper with our economic development,” Barry said. “I want the folks in this room to be my HCAs (Healthcare Corporation of America) and my Bridgestones in 20 years. In order to do that though, we’ve got to create a business climate that you can grow, and I think we’re doing that.”
Barry noted that the Business Climate web site recently listed Nashville as one of three cities that know how to nurture innovation. She touted the city’s music scene, thriving arts scene, the tech culture, and Nashville Entrepreneur Center that she described as an incredible gem.
Since the theme of the forum is “women-owned small business,” it’s notable that Wallet Hub named Nashville as the best city for women entrepreneurs out of the 100 biggest metropolitan areas in the United States.
“We’re growing. We’re booming. I want everybody to have access and the benefit from our economic strength, and I think we have to do that by continuing to create an environment that we have minority, women-owned small businesses successful. And I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that that is our focus as a government,” Barry said.
An impressive cast of women-owned small business experts shared their expertise and unique business perspectives throughout the day.
Margot Dorfman, chief executive officer of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, provided an update on woman owned small businesses in the federal market place. Ann Sullivan, president of Madison Services Group, also provided a legislative update.
Attendees also participated in panel discussions on the certification process, mentor-protégé agreements and joint ventures, and breaking barriers.
Millicent Hollingsworth, chief executive officer of 40 Enterprises, said her company provides management consulting and development training, and attending the small business forum gave her a chance to see how her business can fit into the Army Corps of Engineers’ needs. She said that she also appreciated the chance to network and meet contracting experts from the various federal agencies.
“Just meeting people that actually are the gatekeepers for some of the contracts that you guys have is beneficial because now you put a name with a face, and say I might be able to help you because I have ‘X’ and ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ going on,” Hollingsworth said.
Roy Rossignol, chief of the Nashville District Small Business Office, said the event was a great opportunity for the businesses involved, but especially the women-owned small businesses.
He said just last week the North American Industry Classification System codes were expanded where women can now be more represented in the federal contracting environment and with construction, the Corps of Engineers’ “bread and butter.”
“With these new NAICS codes, we’re going to see some real construction projects being made available to women-owned small business,” Rossignol said. “I’m very excited about the women-owned progress we’ve seen in the federal marketplace.”
Rossignol said this event gave participants direct access with not only the Nashville District and TVA, but also with the Memphis District, Louisville District, Mobile District, Huntsville Engineering and Support Center, Department of Veterans Affairs MidSouth Healthcare Network, and other companies.
“I think by far this event has exceeded my expectations as far as attendance and focus on diversity,” Rossignol said.
(For news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District go to the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook athttp://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)