Business leaders from across Massachusetts gathered at Roxbury Community College Monday for a Business Matchmaker event that looked to inform small businesses about the opportunities available to work with the federal government.
Co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. General Services Administration, the event hosted about 250 small business owners, government contractors and other local government officials and business experts.
“I love being here because just outside this room, there are students working to fulfill the jobs that you are creating,” Warren said at the event. “So it’s a great honor to be here. We’re here to produce jobs here in Massachusetts.”
Warren said the event brought together a variety of professionals, including small business administration experts, agency partners and representatives from the Department of Defense.
“Altogether we have 25 agencies and prime contractors who need the work that small businesses do,” she said. “There is work to be done and good news is we have people who are here to do the work.”
Warren’s speech was followed by a presentation from Major General Craig Olson, program executive officer at Hascom Air Force Base in Bedford. Other speakers included Dr. Valerie Roberson, president of Roxbury Community College; Seth Goodall, regional administrator of the Small Business Administration; Robert Zarnetske, regional administrator of the General Services Administration; and Steven Wert, program executive officer of Battle Management.
In addition the small businesses looking to network with the federal agencies, many national contractors were looking to make connections with small businesses. These federal businesses, called prime contractors, have to ensure that a certain percentage of their supply comes from small businesses.
Several attendees, all small business owners, said the business matchmaking event will help them network with federal agencies and reach small business standards.
Michael Levin, sales and marketing manager for Independent Pipe and Supply Corporation, located in Canton, said he was looking forward to connecting with prime contractors and he was optimistic about meeting prospective partners for his company.
“I hope to gain some contracts with the government, whether it’s the Army, the Air Force, their contractors like Lockheed, or some contracts directly to Hascom Air Force,” he said. “Through some of this networking, we should be able to boost our business this morning.”
Representatives from Elbit Systems Ltd., a multinational corporation headquartered in Israel, attended the corporation looking for specific types of small businesses that could properly supply them while also meeting federal contractor requirements, said Ronald Belden, the company’s purchasing manager.
“In our particular case, we’re looking for small disadvantaged business, women-owned business, HUBZone businesses, which stands for historically underutilized business zones, and service-disabled-veteran-owned business,” he said. “As a defense contractor, we are required to meet small business benchmarks, but within the small business [category], there are those entities that also must be met in order to keep getting federal contracts.”
Allan Ikalainen, vice president of AMEC, said their company, which focuses on consulting, engineering and project management, is also seeking partnerships that will help them fulfill government requirements.
“A lot of our contracts, both government and non-government, we team with small business to add resources to our team,” he said. “For many government contracts, they ask that we reach out to small business to help them participate … We’re always interested in meeting new small businesses.”