The Ohio Business Matchmaker, the largest small business to government contracting event in the state, expects more than 500 small business owners and buyers at this year’s event. There has been strong turnout in past years. CONTRIBUTED

Small businesses seek billions in government work

Hundreds of small business owners will be at Wright State University’s Nutter Center today seeking to get in on billions of dollars in government work.

The annual event, the Ohio Business Matchmaker, is the largest event in the state for small-business-to-government contracting.

Government contracting is a large part of the local economy, fueled by Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Small businesses that want to grow through government work will be “matchmaking” with buyers at the event.

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More than 500 small business owners and buyers are expected to attend.

Jeff Graley, co-founder of Mile Two, a custom software company, got started with the help of government contracts and the business has grown to about 40 employees in downtown Dayton.

“The Air Force and the DoD tend to be leading edge on a lot of technology breakthroughs, so when you are starting a small business there’s some really cool opportunities being able to work on the cutting edge of technology,” Graley said.

The Matchmaker also kicks off with remarks from Rob Scott, Great Lakes Regional Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration; Lydia Mihalik, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency; and Katherine Watern, executive director of the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, regarding the importance and impact of small business contracts, both to local economies and government agencies.

Besides Wright-Patt and federal work, there will be all types of other buyers from municipalities to universities — which have budgets that represent billions of dollars available for small businesses.

The impact of Wright-Patt includes $965 million in direct expenditures in the region from contracts.

The Air Force Research Laboratory has grown from about $174 million in contract obligations to Ohio small businesses in 2013 to $382 million in Ohio in 2018.

Maurice McDonald, Dayton Development Coalition executive vice president of aerospace and defense, said all of the opportunities for small-business contracting doesn’t just help local businesses grow, it also draws in outside companies that want to be near the action.

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“We expect these numbers to continue to climb in our region and hopefully we see more growth from companies wanting to be in our region to take advantage of opportunities with Air Force contacts,” McDonald said.

The federal government’s goal is to award 23 percent of contracts to small businesses.

In 2017, that meant $2.3 billion in federal contracts to Ohio small businesses, according to Small Business Administration Columbus District Director Everett Woodel.

Woodel said there is a wide range of the type of contract work available.

“It really is anything from office supplies all the way up to helping build new buildings,” he said.

One of the purposes of the event at Wright State is to help small businesses who are interested in getting into government contract work meet with the buyers, he said.

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