As co-owner of EBC Printing in Trexlertown, Murtaza Jaffer knows firsthand the challenges of running a minority-owned business. That’s why the Lehigh Valley Meet the Buyers Expo last year was a big help to him.
The biannual expo allows small businesses in the Lehigh Valley to meet face-to-face with dozens of government and private industry procurement professionals to discuss business opportunities and possible purchasing arrangements.
“It gave small minority-owned businesses like myself the opportunity to introduce ourselves and our services to well-known companies in the area,” Jaffer said. “Getting that face-to-face interaction and the chance to set up meetings with purchasing agents for these companies is a great opportunity for us.”
The Meet the Buyers Expo – which will be held again on Oct. 18, 2017, at SteelStacks in Bethlehem, is one of the primary initiatives of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. Local Sourcing and Business Diversity Council, and just one of several ways the council is helping small businesses and minority-owned companies in the region.
“We are very excited that the Buyers Expo has been such a successful venue for connecting our small-business sector with some of our larger sourcing prospects,” said Michelle Landis, member of the council. “The relationships that we have fostered help us achieve our goal of providing growth opportunities for local small businesses with an emphasis on minority, veteran and woman-owned companies.”
While the council provides support services for all small businesses, it pays particular focus to more diverse businesses. For example, it provides resources and advice on how to obtain minority-, veteran- or woman-owned business certification, a process that can be very confusing or time consuming.
The council helps companies identify educational and training opportunities at local, state and national levels through such agencies as the federal Small Business Administration and the Small Business Development Center at Lehigh University, Landis said.
It also provides networking opportunities for minority-owned businesses to learn from each other and provides a list of support services that can assist in growing and sustaining such businesses, including loan programs and financial assistance.
But the council’s signature initiative is the Meet the Buyers Expo, and several of the Lehigh Valley’s largest companies have formed lasting procurement arrangements through the event.
They include the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, one of several regional businesses strongly committed to sourcing goods and services locally and through minority- and woman-owned businesses.l