This may surprise you, but in the past fiscal year, more than $587 million, or 36.2 percent, of the $1.6 billion awarded by the City of Houston to companies for goal-oriented construction, professional services, and goods & services contracts, was awarded to certified minority, women, and small business enterprises (MWSBE firms).
Yet many local business owners don’t actively compete for City contracts, even though City departments and prime contractors who sub-contract small businesses are in search of diverse partners.
To bring buyers and local entrepreneurs together, the City of Houston Office of Business Opportunity will host a free Meet the Buyer event on Thursday, December 1, from 8:15 a.m. to noon, at the George R. Brown Convention Center downtown.
To help dispel common myths about doing business with the City, the OBO offers these reminders:
Myth #1 – My business is small and I probably don’t meet the requirements.
Fact: The Office of Business Opportunity (OBO) is committed to cultivating an inclusive and competitive economic environment in the City of Houston by promoting the success of small businesses and developing Houston’s workforce, including diversity mandates to ensure small and underutilized business participation in City contracts.
The annual Meet the Buyer Procurement Forum (MTB) is the largest annual event offered by OBO, to help small businesses connect and network with City procurement agents as well as other governmental agencies and prime contractors.
Other OBO programs and resources, such as Liftoff Houston and OBO Solutions Center, are available for established and aspiring entrepreneurs to help small business owners thrive in today’s competitive business environment.
Myth #2 – The City only awards construction projects.
Fact: While 73% percent of the total contracts awarded in the fiscal year 2021/2022 were for city-related construction projects, $159 million were awarded to MWSBE-certified firms for professional services and goods & services.
Myth #3 – You have to already be certified to attend Meet the Buyer.
Fact: Actually, no. The buyer procurement event is open to all small businesses that want to learn more about doing business with the City. Plenty of staffers will be on hand to answer questions about how to become certified by the City, which enables a business to bid on work from the City as well as other government agencies at the county and state levels that have established diversity goals.
Myth #4 – Once certified, the work will come my way
Fact: With 5,000 certified firms and new companies getting certified each year, getting your certification marks the first step. Next, get your foot in the door and become known to your potential partners – whether City procurement personnel or prime contractors looking to find qualified subcontractors. Attending the upcoming OBO’s Meet the Buyer on December 1 is a great opportunity to meet the decision-makers, find out about their needs for your product and services, and introduce your business and its capabilities.
Myth #5 – All I need to do is show up, listen to speeches and walk the exhibit booths
Fact: Make sure you maximize this learning and relationship-building opportunity. Have your elevator pitch and leave-behind materials ready to share. Make sure to take the opportunity to ask relevant questions such as What projects do you have planned? What services like mine have you contracted before? What gaps are you trying to fill right now? Who is the person in the department handling procurement of services I provide? Remember, smaller contracts may not require an advertised bid, so being known and building trust with these potential customers is crucial.
As most entrepreneurs can attest, it’s challenging today to get in front of decision-makers. Why not take the opportunity to meet and greet, courtesy of the City? Someone is going to win the work this year, and with a little effort, it could well be you.
Held at George R. Brown Convention Center on December 1, 2022, Meet the Buyer consists of a featured program, exhibitor fair, and workshops dedicated to help small businesses understand governmental procurement processes, connect with procurement buyers and agents, obtain information on the latest City projects, access resources provided by business support organizations, and network with other businesses.
There is no cost to attend Meet the Buyers and the event is open to all who want to participate. Event registration is requested by December 1 at 6 a.m., but space permitting, walk-ins are welcome.
To register and learn more, go to: http://www.houstontx.gov/obo/meet-the-buyer.html