Michigan organization gives small, diverse businesses the tools to succeed in winning government contracts
Local government administrators can boost diverse business opportunities in several ways, says Bobby Chasnis, director of Pure Michigan Business Connect (PMBC). The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) created the PMBC to connect Michigan suppliers with local, domestic and global demand.
Chasnis urges cities and counties to set up or support matchmaking programs that governments and businesses can participate in. “They are an effective and efficient way to introduce regional, national or global purchasers to a diverse base of businesses and suppliers they may not have been exposed to otherwise.” he says.
He adds that local governments can engage with diversity organizations throughout the state and across the U.S. to help identify minority/women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) that would be a good fit for an opportunity to sell goods or services to cities and counties. “These organizations are very familiar with their supply base and can work together to suggest high-performing suppliers to bid on open procurement opportunities.”
Chasnis believes another way government officials can support supplier diversity is by sponsoring programs and processes that certify small, diverse and disadvantaged businesses and startups. To be formally recognized as a diverse supplier, businesses must meet certain criteria and be validated by a third-party agency. Once certified, a supplier is entered into a large database that allows public purchasers across the network to connect for new business opportunities. “However, cost can be a barrier for suppliers looking to become certified,” Chasnis cautions. He urges governments and other organizations to provide matching grants to cover the cost of certification. “This can help boost a supplier’s profile and increase exposure to a new network of potential purchasers.”
Events dedicated to diversity can often be used to increase the number of diverse suppliers, Chasnis believes. Government agencies, organizations and business associations can host, sponsor or simply encourage participation in these events, Chasnis tells Co-op Solutions. “Through these events, suppliers and buyers get to meet one-on-one, learn about the procurement processes, participate in educational seminars or workshops and increase their partner networks. Events can lead to future partnerships and investment opportunities for businesses across all industries.”
Chasnis says that too often, minority businesses are overlooked for public procurement opportunities. He says that business groups are helping level the business playing field in a variety of ways. “Many state organizations, including the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Pure Michigan Business Connect, are implementing diversity programs and prioritizing making connections to help minority-owned businesses access growth opportunities. In turn, when minority-owned businesses have greater growth opportunities, the impact trickles down into local communities and builds greater economic resiliency and social benefits.”
Chasnis adds that when governments and business groups work with minority-owned businesses, it can help contribute to job creation, which leads to increased tax revenue and higher wages. “Higher wages enable workers to invest back into their local economy. Expanding opportunities for a diverse range of business owners is crucial to ensure overall economic success for Michigan.”
For small diverse firms and startups, Chasnis suggests that they work with a state or local government agency to understand which departments might have expiring contracts coming up in the next three to six months that the supplier could prepare to submit a response/bid to. “Many departments will list their current contracts for the public to see on their website, so using this resource to prepare to respond to an opportunity far enough in advance will enable the supplier to respond quickly,” Chasnis advises.
Chasnis says his group works to help small, disadvantaged firms and startups gain access to government contracting opportunities. “The MEDC supports the Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) of Michigan. The PTAC organizations enhance national defense and economic development in-state by assisting Michigan businesses obtain and perform on federal, state and local government contracts.” Chasnis adds that MWBEs and small businesses can participate in one-on-one counseling, seminars, events, trainings and other consultation services hosted by the PTACs. These offerings, he says, can help MWBEs and small businesses expand into the government marketplace. Read how PTACs help businesses win government contracts in this American City & County item. The Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers offers several government contracting tools at this site.
Chasnis urges small businesses and startups to join a B2B community in their state that has a mission similar to the Pure Michigan Business Connect. He notes that the PMBC is all about developing connections between and among Great Lakes State businesses and other organizations. “As member of the PMBC community, you can create a business profile on our platform so that prospective buyers can see the products/services you provide and reach out if they’re interested. You can also attend matchmaking summits and events to meet with purchasers one-on-one.”
Another resource for small businesses to consider using, says Chasnis, is the Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The center is another program supported by the MEDC. “The SBDC provides entrepreneurs, new ventures and small businesses with access to consulting, training and market research to start or expand their business.” He adds that MWBEs or small businesses can connect with the Michigan SBDC at any of its regional centers for assistance.
Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County. Contact him at [email protected]