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(On right) Ferdinand Ordona and Dolly Jajalla, from the Office of Permits, a unit of Caltrans Operations Division, met with representatives Lauren Seldomridge (far left) and Natalie Rubin from Cartridge Warehouse International. This certified small business is a repeat vendor at Caltrans Procurement Fairs and is a supplier of printer cartridges and toners, among many other items.

Let’s Do Business! Small Businesses Follow the Road to Caltrans Procurement Fair
by  Maria Raptis
Issue Date: 03/2010

The economic downturn has been tough for many small businesses. But, there is one bright spot: Caltrans continues to purchase needed, crucial goods and services necessary to do business.

In a fiscal year of tight budgets and slow sales, Caltrans District 7 hosted the ‘Southern California Purchasing Event’ on February 4 where state government Cal-Card (credit card) holders purchased office supplies and products with State certified small business vendors….within limits, of course.

Commonly known as the ‘Procurement Fair,’ the event allows small business vendors to network and meet face-to-face with Caltrans purchasers from nearly every unit and division to sell their products and obtain on-the-spot sales. Cal-Card holders can spend up to $5,000 in one transaction.

One such certified small business owner is Mary Ann Seymour, president and CEO of Discount Computer Supplies (DCS) located in Los Angeles. Seymour has owned DCS for 11 years and has been certified as a small business vendor with the State of California for eight years, selling computers, computer accessories and office supplies all over the state.

“Caltrans is a leader in procurement,” said Seymour. “The Procurement Fair offers business matchmaking like none other, where vendors meet with end users to see if there is a fit. Meeting with buyers face to face allows for a relationship to develop and make personal contacts to conduct business year round.”

One goal of the Caltrans Office of Business & Economic Opportunity in Sacramento is to promote external customer relations by developing its Small Business Program to increase small business participation in contracts and procurements.

“Caltrans continuously looks to its list of certified small business vendors as a catalog of people and places with which to make purchases and conduct business transactions year round,” said Otis Jackson, Governmental Affairs Manager, whose office facilitates the Procurement Fairs and conducts outreach to help that list grow. 

Last year, District 7 coordinated a small business certification clinic with other local agencies to increase the number of certified small businesses.

“There are a lot of small businesses who are not certified as small business vendors,” said External Affairs Deputy Deborah Robertson. “We want to help with the certification process so that they will be on the contact list when procurement funds become available.”

In 2004, District 7 hosted its first Procurement Fair and Caltrans buyers spent $375,000 in on-the-spot procurements. The success subsequently led to Procurement Fairs held in eight of the 12 Caltrans districts. From 2004 to 2008, over $4 million in goods have been purchased from Procurement Fairs, which translates to combined net sales of $1 million annually.

And, while most sales are down and many budgets are downhill, in 2009, District 7 purchased approximately $85,000 in Cal-Card purchases during the one-day Procurement Fair. Caltrans will continue to improve on establishing business relationships with small business vendors because the road to doing business with Caltrans is a two-way street: it helps the department obtain necessary goods and services and helps small businesses grow.
 

Can Caltrans use this?  A vendor demonstrates his skills as a Caltrans flagger.  Aidee Leuschen, a Caltrans Right of Way agent, is amused, but directs him to meet with staff at the Maintenance and Operations tables.   

Anna Luevano of the Design Division meets a small business vendor and accepts an office supply catalog and price list for State of California procurements. “Caltrans is a leader in procurement,” said Mary Ann Seymour, of Discount Computer Supplies, who has been a certified small business vendor with the State for eight years.   A vendor shows samples of clean, shiny safety cones for “The Cone Zone,” and makes a presentation to Cal-Card holder, Pamela Kay, (left), and Aidee Leuschen (center) of the Right of Way Division.