News: Forum focuses on woman-owned businesses
Story by Leon Roberts
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – More than 250 business owners and managers received extensive information about woman-owned business opportunities within the federal, state and local procurement systems during the 2nd Annual Small Business Training Forum today at the Tennessee State University Avon Williams Campus.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Small Business Office participated during the event and worked to educate business professionals about available tools and resources, and provided information on how to get assistance with the procurement process.
Dr. Glenda Baskin Glover, TSU president, welcomed everyone and said she is always excited to see small businesses networking together and seeking solutions that are available at this training forum.
“I’m a proponent of woman owned business and small businesses in general because we’re so dependent on the jobs that you create and the talent that you train, given opportunities that you provide,” Glover said during her opening remarks.
Featured speakers shared their expertise and unique business and engineering perspectives throughout the day.
Mark A. Emkes, Tennessee commissioner of Finance and Administration, and former chief executive officer of Bridgestone Americas Holding Inc., opened up the forum with the keynote address and talked about the importance of creating a climate that is good for businesses in the state.
A Tennessean editorial that morning labeled Governor Bill Haslam as pro business, Emkes said, “Is that a bad thing? To me that’s a badge of honor because the government cannot create jobs. But what we can do is create an environment so that you as a business will want to expand your business.”
Emkes said growing the number of jobs in the state provides income, creates sales tax revenue, and increases the tax base.
“If we create an environment here in Tennessee where people know they can invest and make money, we have the chance of attracting more businesses, more investment, and the consequence of that is jobs are created,” he said.
Retired Lt. Gen. Robert B. Flowers, former chief of engineers and commander at USACE, and currently the senior vice president and federal program director with ARCADIS, an international company that provides consultancy, design, engineering and management services, then spoke about motivating women to gain federal contracts. He quickly spoke about his own mother who borrowed money to start her own business, a beauty shop.
“Some of my earliest memories are sitting in a basket in my mother’s shop,” Flowers said. “And even today, when I smell a permanent, it brings back all of those memories.”
The general said his mother remains his motivator and then encouraged women in small business to seek out work with federal agencies.
“The federal government year in and year out spends an enormous sum of money – sometimes more, sometimes less, on procuring goods and services,” Flowers said.
Following the general, Ann Sullivan, president of Madison Services Group Inc., in Washington, D.C., a women-owned company that provides government relations and business development services to corporate and non-profit clients, provided an update on the latest change to policies affecting woman owned businesses.
She talked about the Women Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program and announced that the federal government lifted a $4 to $6.5 million cap on women-owned contracts had been lifted through the legislative efforts of the organization Women Impacting Public Policy.
“There are no award limits on the contracts that are allowed to go through this program,” Sullivan said. “It was a huge effort … it’s just the result of a million women saying this is what we want to do, this is what we’re entitled to, this is what will make this program work, we want you to step up to the plate.”
In the afternoon participants interacted with a panel consisting of Angela Crane-Jones, interim executive director of the Nashville Business Incubation Center; Kim Hawkins, owner of Hawkins Partners Inc.; Mercedes Jones, owner of Legacy Project Resources; Mendy Mazzo, vice president of business development at Skansa; and Kathy Ware, a professional engineer and owner of K.S. Ware & Associates. Laura Reinbold, a professional engineer and vice president and branch manager for TTL Inc., moderated the discussion.
Following the panel, Lt. Col. James A. DeLapp, Nashville District commander, provided information about the ongoing projects in the district’s area of operation. Mike Wilson, deputy for Programs and Project Management for the Nashville District, then gave an update about the ongoing work at the Center Hill Dam Safety Rehabilitation Project.
Roy Rossignol, chief of the Nashville District Small Business Office, said the event was a great opportunity for the businesses involved to network with each other and for the Corps to build its list of contractors and their capabilities.
“In 2012 the Nashville District did not award a new contract to a large business,” Rossignol said. “So everything we did in 2012 went to a small business in the tune of about $56 million. This year we see no change. Everything we’re going to do this year is going to be a small business type of requirement.”
Rossignol said there are two ongoing large contracts at Wolf Creek Dam and Center Hill Dam, but the district does not see any other large contracts on the horizon.
“Events like this bring attention to the women owned small business and equality within federal contracting,” Rossignol added.
Jennifer Gray, a service-disabled veteran and president of Freedom Electric Services in Madison, Tenn., has been in business for just over a year and said she attended this forum to network and to receive guidance on the federal procurement system.
“It has really, really helped because I have met so many women who are in the construction industry … there are so many women out there who are supportive and they do so much along the way help you and to guide you.”
Gray said it was very nice to meet with other women with the same experiences and that know how to help. “That’s the most important thing,” she said.
The Tennessee Small Business Center; Society of American Military Engineers Nashville Post; Associated General Contractors of Tennessee, Middle Tennessee Branch; and the Nashville District organized the activities. Other organizations that participated include the USACE Louisville District, USACE Huntsville Engineering and Support Center, Arnold Air Force Base Contracting Division and Aerospace Testing Alliance, Department of Energy at Oak Ridge, Department of Veterans Affairs MidSouth Healthcare Network, and GSA Kentucky and Tennessee District.