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USF to hold annual government small business conference

— A conference that in 2013 helped small businesses in this region secure $49 million in government contracts is scheduled for May 6.

The University of South Florida’s Small Business Development Center will host its 28th Annual Government Small Business Conference at the Embassy Suites at USF from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Early registration through April 15 is $150.

The event, which typically draws between 100 and 150 participants, is well worth the time, said Tricia Ricke, vice president and CFO for Federal Contracts Corp., a Tampa company that leases heavy equipment to government agencies.

“I’ve been to this conference maybe six times and I find it very helpful,” Ricke said. While it is geared for small businesses, she also recommends it to larger companies that might be able to handle a bigger contract, then hire small companies as sub contractors.

“The conference includes a networking session where buyers from different government agencies are there and typically, Tampa International Airport is there. We have people from Hillsborough County, Tampa city government, MacDill Air Force Base,” Ricke said. “Usually, the conference attracts people responsible for increasing outreach to small businesses.

“A small business liaison will sit with me and walk me through the steps to get registered for a contract,” Ricke said. Those are typically the hardest people for a small business person to reach on their own, she said.

“Sometimes, these are billion-dollar contracts and not every small business is equipped to handle that.” But, if a small business can hook on to that as a subcontractor and make $1 million “that can work for some,” Ricke said.

The conference will feature five seminars geared toward small businesses, a keynote luncheon with Congressman Gus Bilirakis, Small Business Awards presentation and a half-day business opportunity expo.

Anne LaMarie owns a company that specializes in diving and crew boat repair, working with agencies like the Coast Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers and ships coming into Port Tampa Bay. Sea Sub Systems in Indian Rocks Beach, has been working with USF for 25 years and has seen results, LaMarie said.

“We really like being the sub contractor to a prime because we have more opportunities as a small business,” she said. She said she has used the networking time at the conference to have face to face meetings with buyers for government agencies. “It gives me the opportunity to see people I’m looking to market to and take a look at our competition. I also might find other small businesses I can team with.”

“Every year, we survey all of our (participants) to see the type of impact we have made in their business and right now, we are analyzing the results from 2014,” said Yanina Rosario, associate director for the SBDC. “It’s all about increasing government contracts for small businesses. In 2013, in our 10-county region, we were able to assist small businesses to acquire $49 million in government contracts.”

Businesses that offer services, equipment, transcription, painting, even janitorial work participate, Rosario said. The conference gives companies “a clear path” to reach the individuals that make decisions on these contracts.

It is a way to open doors for local companies, Rosario said.

The sessions include: Government Contracting; Proposal Writing; How to Survive a Government Audit; Joint Venture and Teaming Agreements; and Using Social Media to Market Your Business.

For more information or to register, visit SBDCTampaBay.com/gsbc2015.

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