MSET programs on a roll
Events and programs hosted by the Mississippi Enterprise for Technology that bring together government agencies and contractors with small businesses have produced some impressive successes.
One company, for example, landed a multimillion-dollar contract after learning about vending opportunities at Stennis Space Center (SSC).
Some small businesses have formed partnerships to find opportunities they could not have handled individually. A procurement officer provided help to another to meet small business goals. Large businesses are finding small business strategic partners.
Charlie Beasley, MSET President and CEO, said the events and programs help bring exposure to SSC programs and business opportunities there as well as help businesses develop and grow.
"If someone wants to explore business development at Stennis in full, they may have to schedule 20-30 meetings or more. We try to minimize that process to reduce their costs and increase effectiveness, so they can come to one central place and work from there. It streamlines their efforts," he said.
Laurie Jugan, MSET program coordinator, said, "The events are put together to get information out on the needs of federal agencies and larger contractors as well as for us to learn about small businesses."
The series of programs, all made possible through the funding of the Mississippi Development Authority, began with Lunch & Learn, a monthly luncheon presentation to inform local small businesses about what federal agencies and large contractors need and how to do business with them.
Held on the second Thursday of every month, the programs cover a wide range of topics, including what the featured agency or company does, what their small business goals are, what technologies they need and how to register for vendor databases.
On occasion, the program will be presented by the newest resident or affiliate companies, presenting their capabilities. Presentations might also cover helpful topics such as a recent one on scams and security risks facing small businesses. Such information is generally available to large businesses and federal agencies but not always to small businesses because of the cost involved.
MSET has hosted two showcases featuring suppliers and service providers offering products and services that most companies need, including web design, training, insurance, hardware, legal and financial services.
The second annual event drew more than 170 attendees from SSC and others from the surrounding communities.
This and other MSET showcases introduce vendors to potential customers and give agencies an opportunity to do business locally. Recent Showcases have included minority-owned and technology-based small businesses.
The Stennis Business Consortium holds quarterly meetings to help companies looking for procurement and partnership opportunities at SSC. It's coordinated by MSET in partnership with the Louisiana Technology Transfer Office.
Attendees include procurement officers and small business advocates from government agencies and large contractors at Stennis Space Center who share information about upcoming contract activities
Michelle Stracener is a NASA Small Business Specialist whose primary duties include participating in outreach events such as the business consortium to promote NASA's Small Business Program.
"This concept is even more appropriate today considering the economic hardships that are facing everyone and many small businesses just don't have the resources to make several trips to a Center to seek procurement opportunities. A small business can now plan one trip to SSC and meet not only NASA personnel, but also other government agencies such as the Navy; Commerce; Interior; Transportation; Energy; Environmental Protection Agency; and General Services Administration," as well as universities and prime contractors.
The annual Stennis Industry Days is another popular and productive way for small companies to get together with government agencies and prime contractors to discuss opportunities for doing business together.
Interest in the programs is increasing as more small businesses learn about their potential.
Said Beasley: "The attendance numbers have been good and are growing, and the feedback has been excellent. The best thing we like to hear is that a company was awarded a contract as a result of one of our events."
In addition to the regularly scheduled programs and presentations, MSET hosts one-of-a kind events to promote interaction with area small businesses.
One recent session provided training to prepare companies to make successful pitches to angel and venture investors.
Business matchmaking sessions were held in conjunction with a technical conference, Oceans in Action, to bring together large businesses and small companies.
Stracener said in April of 2012, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden presented Stennis Space Center with the Small Business Administrator's Cup, which is given to the NASA Center with the best overall small business program for the previous year.
She said that when then-Stennis Space Center Director Patrick Scheuermann accepted the award, he credited MSET for their coordination of outreach events to small businesses. "Their efforts are a key reason Stennis showed improvement in contract awards to small businesses last year," Scheuermann said.
- Lisa Monti