Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
article
Feature
The fair means big business to small businesses.

SMALL BUSINESSES COME HUNGRY, LEAVE HAPPY
by  Judy Gish
Issue Date: 06/2007

Vendors show off their wares to eager purchasers at District event.

It was a buyers and sellers market on May 15, when the District held its Spring 2007 Procurement Fair.

Started in 2004, this innovative District 7 program is designed to provide opportunities for Small business Enterprises (SBE), Disabled Veterans Business Enterprises (DVBE), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) to meet with Caltrans purchasers and sell their products directly.

This year’s event, the sixth such fair, had at least one new feature: District 12 partnered with District 7, giving the 83 participating vendors a much larger range of buyers for their office supplies, safety products, computer peripherals and promotional items. Additionally, participants could attend California Bear Credit Union Small Business Planning workshops, a California Department of General Services (DGS) informational presentation on small business certification, and a Caltrans Department of Procurement and Contracts lecture on procurement policies.

At the fair, buyers could make immediate purchases and vendors could network with other small businesses and financial institutions. “The Fair is a fantastic outreach opportunity for businesses and the District,” said External Affairs Deputy Deborah Robertson. “We are currently leading the way statewide in small business participating, spending 82 percent of third quarter dollars with these types of companies.”

Putting the Fair together requires a lot of advanced planning and legwork, said Small Business Liaison Norma Dorsey. Inquiries are first sent to purchases to determine their needs. Then, vendors of those specific items are contacted. Outreach includes newspaper advertisements, meetings with Chambers of Commerce, and notification to other agencies and elected officials who might provide additional contacts.

“Caltrans knows small business is smart business,” Dorsey said. “The fair illustrates Caltrans’ commitment to assist the small business community with establishing relations and new opportunities.”

Apparently, District 7’s idea is catching on. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), the City of Inglewood, and U.S. Pretrial Services attended the fair to observe the process for possible future events.

“Small businesses leave the fair with a good feeling that we are serious about them,” Dorsey added. “Although we may not make purchases from every vendor that day, it’s a great start at building strong, professional relationships.”

The next semi-annual Procurement Fair is planned for November. Purchasers, start your Visa cards!

Networking is an important benefit of the fair. A vendor displays his offerings. Did this discussion lead to a sale? Norma Dorsey, Caltrans Small Business Liaison.