December 02, 2015

Hundreds Attend Minority Outreach Fair in Hanover

Capital Gazette

Owners and representatives of some 650 minority and women-owned small contracting firms met with dozens of private and government entities seeking their services Wednesday morning in Hanover.

Some 45 agencies including Anne Arundel County Public Schools, the Maryland Department of Transportation and Johns Hopkins Health System seeking products and services attended the Minority Outreach Fair at Maryland Live Casino at Arundel Mills. Hosted by Maryland Live and Washington Minority Companies Association (MWMCA), the bi-annual event aims to support small minority and women-owned businesses by connecting them with contracting opportunities.

"It provides an opportunity for small, minority-owned businesses to meet in one location with a lot of other businesses," said Doug Shipley, the casino's general manager.

In addition to 30 agencies and businesses set up at tables throughout the casino's Ram's Head Center Stage, vendors could also sign up for five-minute meetings with representatives for companies such as Kaiser Permanente, Bank of America and Towson University.

"What makes it significant is (Maryland Live) brings all these other businesses in to share the goodwill," MWMCA President Wayne R. Frazier Sr. said.

The event attracted vendors offering a variety of services.

While health care provider Kaiser Permanente is looking for construction companies to expand its presence on the East Coast, spice and herb manufacturer McCormick & Co. seeks commodity traders, Frazier said.

"It's difficult to get meetings with people in business," said Tony Hill, managing partner of the Annapolis Junction-based Edwards & Hill which specializes in the supply and installation of office furniture. "Here under one roof, one event you might be able to meet 10 or 15 people."

Hill and Hans Edwards, the firm's other managing partner are African American. The company employs about a dozen people, Hill said.

Timothy Handy, owner of Beltsville-based Timothy Handy and Associates, which offers janitorial and food service supplies, said it can be easy to run into roadblocks cold-calling businesses seeking work.

"A lot of times you can't get to the person you need to speak to, but here your meeting face-to-face with, if not the person you need to speak to then someone who can get you to that person," said Handy, who is black.

Handy's company has two full-time employees and three part-time employees, he said.

"For us, it helps us get our faces known," said Timothy Robinson, owner of TRI Development Company, a business development and consultant firm. "After you see folks at a few of these events, they say, 'let us sit down and talk.'"

Wednesday's event was the first one attended by Olutayo Amosu who owns Silver Spring-based Satkaa Enterprise which offers office, medical and janitorial supplies. Amosu started her company about 1 ½ years ago. She immigrated to the country from Nigeria two decades ago, she said.

"I've been meeting people, giving out business cards," Amosu said. "It's been so helpful."

The next Minority Outreach Fair will be held in June at the casino.

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