Last week, our Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) held two days of sessions to help small businesses compete more effectively for transportation contracts. This was a terrific opportunity for these businesses to learn about the tools and programs the Department of Transportation makes available to them.
And it was a great way for DOT to celebrate National Entrepreneurship Week. We know that small businesses are the engines of job creation in the US, and we are working hard to support them.
Christopher Lu, Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary, delivered the keynote address. His message from the White House was clear: small businesses are a core component of President Obama's strategy for achieving sustainable growth and quality jobs.
On Wednesday, the theme was Partnering for Success, and the workshops focused on our Short Term Lending Program. Through participating lenders, this program provides small businesses short term financing at competitive rates for DOT or DOT funded contracts and subcontracts.
Without the loan guarantee this program provides, many small and disadvantaged business would not have enough financing to compete for work. And for an up-and-coming entrepreneur, access to capital can make a huge difference.
For new participating lenders in the program, the exercises underscored how far the Department will go to help businesses. Says Industrial Bank VP Sharon Bryant Zimmerman:
"DOT really makes the financing process easier for lenders and businesses. Their guarantee on the loans in the program makes it possible us to lend to businesses that would ordinarily not have access to that kind of credit. The regional resource centers also help walk applicants through the loan process. And Wednesday's training showed us how all the elements work together."
On Thursday, nearly 300 small and disadvantaged businesses attended the Small Business Vendor Day. At this event, businesses had a chance to learn about the resources being extended to them by DOT and other organizations.
For example, as Karen M. Williford of the Maryland Transportation Authority said:
"Our Inter-County Connector project has an aggressive, 15% disadvantaged business goal in each phase. Right now, we have $50 million in environmental contracts that would be perfect for these businesses--not just as subcontractors, but as primes. And without this event, most of the businesses here would never know about this opportunity."
Vendor Day events also included stories from several businesses that have used OSDBU programs and tools as a springboard to success. Stay tuned to this blog in coming weeks for a closer look at one of those successes from our South Atlantic Resource Center.
In the meantime, thanks to Director Brandon Neal and the OSDBU staff for hosting these two days and to all the small businesses and lenders who made the events so successful.