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Maryland is open for business. Period!

Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs Team, pictured above, from left, back row, Nichelle Johnson, Tanita Johnson, Chantal Kai-Lewis, Gerald Stinnett, Pam Gregory, Eduardo Hayden. Front row, Lisa Mitchell Sennaar, Jimmy Rhee, Alison Tavik. (Submitted photo)

Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs Team, pictured above, from left, back row, Nichelle Johnson, Tanita Johnson, Chantal Kai-Lewis, Gerald Stinnett, Pam Gregory, Eduardo Hayden. Front row, Lisa Mitchell Sennaar, Jimmy Rhee, Alison Tavik. (Submitted photo)

The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) are even more experienced than a typical business consultant or trainer, in terms of experience and credentials.

“Every agency across the state is moving in the same direction thanks to the synergy created by Governor Hogan’s focus on growing the private sector, creating jobs, and improving the statewide economy,” said Jimmy Rhee, special secretary for the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs. “As a result, doing business in Maryland has never been more straightforward.”

For Secretary Rhee and his team, their mission is focused on connecting Maryland’s small, minority, women, and veteran business owners to greater economic opportunities through three state contracting procurement programs: Small Business Reserve (SBR), Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Veteran-owned Small Business Enterprise (VSBE).

“I don’t think many people know that nearly every contract issued by the state is evaluated for SBR, MBE, and VSBE participation,” said Chief of Staff Pamela Gregory. “We have a long history of inclusion, and setting robust participation goals is an important part of the procurement process. Being in these programs is a real value to firms who want to do business in the state contracting arena.”

The SBR Program provides prime contracting opportunities in an exclusive environment where small businesses compete against other small businesses. This race- and gender-neutral set aside program applies to 70 agencies/departments that are required to spend at least 15 percent of their total fiscal year procurement expenditures with SBR vendors. There is no cost to participate and vendors complete the certification process online.

The MBE Program is an economic development tool for socially- and economically-disadvantaged firms owned by African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans and Women. It applies to 70 agencies/departments all working collectively to achieve a statewide goal of 29 percent. There is no cost to participate, and vendors must complete an application-based certification process. Certified MBEs that perform as prime contractors may count a portion of their work toward an established MBE contract goal.

The VSBE Program provides opportunities in the state contracting arena for veteran-owned small businesses. This is a subcontracting program with 65 participating agencies/departments with a one percent statewide goal. Vendors complete a two-step certification process that includes verification of veteran status. There is no cost to participate.

“None of the programs erase competition,” said Alison Tavik, director of communications & outreach. “Public contracting is complicated, and it’s very hard to be successful if you don’t understand how we [State of Maryland] do business.”

In an effort to help firms compete with confidence, the Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs office has a very robust outreach and training program. Their signature event is called Ready, Set, GROW! This small business development workshop connects vendors with buyers from government agencies, and provides insightful tips for navigating the procurement process. It is held six times a year at locations around the state. Their Technical Training Classroom is an educational series developed to help entrepreneurs improve managerial efficiencies. Two classes are held on the fourth Tuesday of every month (except December) at the Governor’s Coordinating Offices in Crownsville. Subject-matter-experts cover a broad range of topics such as Proposal Writing Basics, Contract Cost & Price Analysis, Negotiation Strategies & Closing Techniques, and State Procurement 101.

Maryland is open for business, and the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority &Women Business Affairs understand that access to these powerful networking and educational resources are critical to success. As a result, there is no charge to attend any if their events.

According to Secretary Rhee, his staff makes all the difference.

“You can actually feel the passion of our small, but mighty staff,” said Secretary Rhee. “Nothing compares to having an insightful conversation with someone who is genuinely invested in your success. Attend one of our events or call the office for assistance and experience it for yourself.”

Learn more about the State of Maryland’s procurement programs and the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs’ outreach events by visiting www.gomdsmallbiz.maryland.gov.

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Expanding Opportunities

This article is featured in the 2019 edition of The Daily Record’s Expanding Opportunities Resource Guide for Small, Minority and Women Businesses. Published in conjunction with the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs, Expanding Opportunities explores diversity, entrepreneurship and innovation in Maryland’s small business community. Read more from Expanding Opportunities on this website or read the digital edition.

To purchase a reprint of this article, contact reprints@thedailyrecord.com.

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