(April 5, 2018) When Kerrick Williams heard about Tampa International Airport’s Buyer-Supplier Connect Outreach event, he knew it would be worth his time to attend. As a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certified owner of a local photography and video production company, he had attended similar TPA-hosted outreach efforts in the past and made connections that led to new clients.
“You never know who you’re going to meet,” Williams said. “It’s not just about trying to find work at the Airport. It’s about people and relationships. I’ve actually gotten a lot of work from other companies through the outreach event, and vice-versa, I’ve met business owners whose services I need.”
The Buyer-Supplier Connect event held on March 15 in the Marriott ballroom was just one of the ways TPA helps the region’s small businesses, minority-owned businesses and women-owned businesses grow, and in turn, benefit the Airport. The outreach efforts were designed by the Procurement Department to help connect suppliers and business owners with various Authority departments that purchase supplies, goods and services.
While many of the attending businesses were registered DBE and W/MBE (Woman- and Minority Owned Business Enterprise) companies and have done business with the airport, many business owners unfamiliar with the Airport environment also participated, interacting with more experienced business owners and attending educational sessions. Nearly 400 exhibiting vendors, suppliers, outside agencies and Aviation Authority staff took part.
“Hosting these types of outreach activities is a great way for us to get to know local and disadvantaged businesses, for them to get to know us and for these business owners to get to know each other,” said Elita McMillon, TPA Director of Ethics, Diversity and Administration. “We were pleased to see a mix of new businesses and ones we have longstanding relationships with, and we hope to encourage even more community and regional woman- and minority-owned companies to participate in future initiatives like these, particularly as we prepare for Phase 2 of the Master Plan.”
William McGuire, owner of the aviation security firm Global Elite Corporation, said he has attended similar networking conferences and symposiums at other airports but the one at TPA was “very well put-together.”
“This was the first one I’ve attended at Tampa International and I was impressed,” McGuire said. “It seemed to be a good turnout. It’s not just about networking but working with other groups outside of the ones with which you typically do business.”
Williams, who has photographed the Authority’s annual service awards luncheon for years, said he’s watched the Airport develop into a big economic driver for its local and minority businesses in recent years.
“Under CEO Joe Lopano, the Airport provides a tremendous community impact,” he said. “Not just for the black community but for the entire community.”
TPA plans to host another outreach opportunity in September. For more info about TPA’s W/MBE and DBE programs, visit www.tampaairport.com/business-diversity.