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Sen. Warren convenes local businesses, U.S. agencies

Martin Desmarais
Sen. Warren convenes local businesses, U.S. agencies
As part of the “Mass. Business Matchmaker” event at Roxbury Community College, area businesses were able to sit down and pitch to government agencies and government contractors in an effort to pursue federal sector contracts.

Daniel Skerrit, center, owner of the Somerville-based Pinctada Banquets & Events LLC, talks to other small business owners at the “Mass. Business Matchmaker” event this week in Roxbury.

Small businesses got a chance to pitch their services to government agencies and government contractors in a bid to get a piece of the multi-billion-dollar pie that is offered by the federal sector every year.

The event, which was attended by about 200 Massachusetts small businesses at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, featured 25 government agencies and prime contractors — including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Transportation on the federal end, as well as giants such as Raytheon, BAE Systems and Booz Allen Hamilton on the private contractor end.

Small businesses in attendance had the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with agency representatives and contractors to learn about possible contracts in the region.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren was on hand to kick off the “Mass. Business Matchmaker” event, as were leaders from the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, the General Services Administration and the Small Business Administration.

“We are here to produce some jobs,” she said. “We are here to produce some jobs here in Massachusetts. There is work to be done and the good news is we have people who are here to do the work.”

She pointed out that the contractors at the event had large deals in place with the federal government and have a responsibility to use small business to help them fulfill parts of their contracts. She said they “need the work that small businesses do.”

Among the other speakers was Steven D. Wert, program executive officer for the U.S. Air Force. Wert told those small businesses owners at the event that there are billions of dollars of opportunity through federal work each year. He also emphasized that the Air Force, in particular, is increasing its efforts to work with small businesses.

“We will be interacting with you much more,” Wert said. “Our attitude that we are trying to convey, I think across the board, is whatever our attitude was in the past we are engaging small businesses now.”

On the floor at the Reggie Lewis Track the small businesses included minority-owned business, women-owned business, veteran-owned businesses and family-owned businesses.

Daniel Skeritt and Yemisi Oluwole, owners of the Somerville-based Pinctada Banquets & Events LLC, said the opportunity to meet face-to-face with government agencies and prime contractors and learn about access into the federal sector is invaluable.

“It is an outstanding presentation that opens up many opportunities for small businesses,” Skeritt said.

“It is about access,” Oluwole added. “It is a very good way to make that connection with an opportunity.”

Pinctada Banquets & Events is a minority-owned business.

Skeritt and Oluwole said that they have attended other similar events in the past and try to do so at least once a month and even more if possible.

They said that even if they don’t get any immediate contracts from a business-networking-type event, sometimes a connection made can lead to business or a referral down the road.

“You have to build relationships. That is the primary opportunity that you have,” Oluwole said.

Richard K. Fields, who just launched his educational consulting company the Fields Group LLC three months ago, said this was the first time he attended an event that connected him to government agencies and contractors.

Fields’ is a minority-owned business that is based out of Concord, Mass., and he said he welcomed any insight that could possible connect his startup with the lucrative government sector. His hope was that the event would lead to some business.

“We are here to get to know some of those people who represent some of the prime contractors,” said Fields. “We are interested in doing some business for them.”

Natalie Leveille and Audrey Lewis attended the event representing their family-owned business Eagle Trophy, which specializes in laser engraving and is headquartered in Fitchburg.

They said that Eagle Trophy is looking to expand its business and that the federal sector is an area of high interest for them.

“We are trying to get a foot into the government business,” said Leveille.

They both said the business matchmaking aspect of the event was exactly the kind of interaction with government sector companies they were hoping to get — and they praised the state’s efforts in organizing it.

“It is great for organizations to set up these events, so you should take advantage of these opportunities,” said Lewis.

“It is a good thing the state and the government are getting involved with small businesses,” Leveille added.

Unlike many of the other businessmen and businesswomen at the event, William Jimenez was there representing a company that has been around for several decades and has been consistently targeting the government sector.

An account executive at the Fitchburg-based Resource Management Inc., a minority-owned resource outsourcing company, Jimenez said that his company has gotten government business through similar business matchmaking events in the past.

According to Jimenez, what is important is getting in front of potential decision-makers who may stay in touch and reach out when services are needed in the short term or in the future.

“At an event like this you are planting the seeds — it is the networking stage,” Jimenez said. “There is a government opportunity because they must do this.”

In her remarks, Warren echoed the theme of business opportunities.

“This event is about building opportunities,” she said. “It is opportunities for small businesses to be able to work with the government either directly or to do it through a prime contractor. It is opportunities for government agencies to find some of the best small businesses in America to do their work.

“The way I see this: government agencies are lucky that they can get Massachusetts’ small businesses to work for them, with just the tools to make it happen in this room.”