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Lehigh Valley Meet the Buyers Connects Small and Large Businesses

By Colin McEvoy on May 9, 2022

Lehigh Valley small businesses were afforded a unique opportunity to network directly with large regional businesses and with federal, state, and local government agencies about their sourcing and supplier needs.

The bi-annual Lehigh Valley Meet the Buyers Expo was held virtually on April 26, allowing small business attendees to meet with dozens of professionals to discuss business opportunities, develop leads, and discuss procurement deals for products and services.

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) was the premiere sponsor for the event, and Karianne Gelinas, LVEDC Vice President of Regional Partnerships and Talent Strategies, served on the steering committee that organized the event.

“Meet the Buyers is a Lehigh Valley gem,” Gelinas said. “The event benefits both large companies looking to source locally and smaller businesses seeking opportunities to market their goods and services to these big players.”

Since 2013, the Expo has been the Lehigh Valley’s preeminent matchmaking event to develop diverse local supply chains. It is the only local event that allows attendees to connect and develop business relationships on this scale.

The virtual event was held on Brella, on which attendees logged in and messaged each other for discussions, then arranged one-on-one calls or conversations in breakout rooms.

“Kettle Creek Corporation was able to actively and successfully connect with potential buyers through the virtual Lehigh Valley Meet The Buyers event,” said Bonnie Haas, President & CEO Kettle Creek Corporation, one of the attendees. “I am looking forward to future business with these individuals and am grateful this event was provided to benefit mall businesses.”

Initial data from the event showed 180 one-on-one meetings and almost 700 messages exchanged between buyers and attendees, according to Brett Smith, chair of the steering committee and Director of Lehigh University’s Small Business Development Center.

“Those numbers show that, no matter the format, the Meet the Buyers expo continues to be an important part of local sourcing and supplier diversity efforts in the Lehigh Valley,” Smith said. “We appreciate everyone’s ability to pivot with the Expo as we shifted to an online format.”

Jane Altemose, Director of Purchasing Services with Lehigh University, was among those representing buyers who attended the event, and she described it as a great success.

“The Meet the Buyers event afforded the opportunity to meet potential future vendors with whom Lehigh can partner,” Altemose said. “I found the digital meeting platform easy to use and the appointment times allowed sufficient time to speak with the vendors and get an understanding of the service offerings and if there might be a fit for Lehigh University.”

Local sourcing is more important now than ever before for a business to succeed. A diverse supply chain brings innovation and creativity to solving sourcing challenges, and local businesses are best positioned to respond to quick changes or emergency stock requirements, Smith said.

According to a McKinsey survey at the end of 2021, 62% of respondents were unable to buy at least one item in the prior three months, 39% of those who experienced a shortage changed brands, and only 13% waited it out. Collaborative relationships with local supply chains help avoid such disruptions.

Among the buyers who attended this year’s event were businesses like Associated Builders and Contractors, First Energy, Lehigh Valley Health Network, PennStar, PPL, RCN Business, Service Electric, St. Luke’s University Health Network, Wind Creek Bethlehem, and more.

Federal, state, and local government agencies also participated as buyers, including the City of Allentown, the Bethlehem Community Action Development Corporation, Lehigh County Procurement Office, Lehigh University, Northampton County, Rising Tide Community Loan Fund, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and more.

The Lehigh Valley Meet the Buyers Expo is held every two years.

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