Participants will discuss possible contracts with private and public sector vendors.
The Arkansas Economic Development Commission will host its annual matchmaker event in partnership with the Arkansas District Office of the Small Business Administration and the Arkansas Procurement Technical Assistance Center from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 11 at Heifer International headquarters in Little Rock. Registration is free and open to owners of minority- and women-owned businesses and to vendors.
The Matchmaker Event is the signature occasion for AEDC’s Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Division, according to a press release. Business owners will have 15-minute scheduled matchmaking appointments with various private and public sector vendors to discuss possible contracts for their goods and services.
Attendees will also have the opportunity to connect with other local business owners and listen to a variety of guest speakers at the event. Sidney Moncrief, a five-time NBA All-Star, former Arkansas Razorback, motivational speaker, author and founder of One Team and Game Changers, Inc., will be the keynote speaker. This year’s event will also include a joint reception with the attendees of AEDC’s Rural Development Summit on the evening of May 11.
“I want to especially encourage procurement or purchasing officers from the public and private sector to register,” said Esperanza Massana Crane, director of AEDC’s Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Division. “The success of the event depends on the public and private sector coming together to create an atmosphere designed to promote networking opportunities to ultimately grow partnerships with minority and women-owned businesses.”
By promoting networking opportunities and pre-arranging one-on-one “speed-dating style” appointments, the annual Matchmaker Event can serve as a useful tool for both businesses and vendors seeking to secure contracts. Business owners are matched with buying representatives based on information provided during the registration process.
“Each year, about 200 businesses participate in this event,” Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said. “We understand that small business owners have their plates full and often cannot get away from the office to make these valued connections, and we want to do everything we can to promote our minority- and women-owned businesses and connect them with the right people to increase their revenues and move them forward on their paths to future successes.”
In August 2017, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and AEDC officials announced the mission of the state’s Small and Minority Business Program would be expanded to include women-owned businesses and be renamed the Division of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise by Act 1080 of 2017. New annual spending targets for the state of Arkansas were also set at that time at eight percent for minority businesses, five percent for women-owned and two percent for service-disabled veterans in construction, goods, and services, totaling 15 percent for vendors in those categories.
The division promotes the growth and sustainability of such businesses by providing real-world technical and professional assistance, state vendor certification and opportunities for networking and contracting with AEDC partners in state and federal government, higher education, lending institutions and the private sector.
Registration and more information is available on AEDC’s website.