LVEDC Council Helps Connect Small Lehigh Valley Companies with Sourcing Prospects

By Colin McEvoy on July 28, 2016

The 2015 Lehigh Valley Meet the Buyers Expo. This event is just one way LVEDC's Local Sourcing and Business Diversity Council helps to facilitate successful purchasing arrangements for Lehigh Valley companies.

The 2015 Lehigh Valley Meet the Buyers Expo. This event is just one way LVEDC’s Local Sourcing and Business Diversity Council helps to facilitate successful purchasing arrangements for Lehigh Valley companies.

When Stewart Kessler, the owner of a small catering company based in Plainfield Township, attended the Lehigh Valley Meet the Buyers Expo three years ago, he had the opportunity to meet with dozens of the largest companies in the region.

And one of those meetings resulted in one of his largest corporate customers.

What started with a handshake and a brief introduction led to Catering by Royal Gourmet becoming a preferred catering vendor for Buzzi Unicem, one of the leading cement manufacturing companies in the United States, which this year celebrated its 100th year operating in the Lehigh Valley.

“When the opportunity arises, we look to support our local businesses,” said Krista Karasek, an accounting associate with Buzzi Unicem’s Stockertown plant. “We believe in supporting our local communities on several levels, and having local business partners has added to our success of being in business for 100 years.”

That partnership is just one of many examples of successful purchasing arrangements between local Lehigh Valley companies and larger buyers for products and services, and an example of how the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation’s (LVEDC) Local Sourcing and Business Diversity Council helps to facilitate such arrangements.

“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 helps us achieve our goal of providing growth opportunities for local small businesses with an emphasis on minority, veteran, and woman-owned companies.”

Providing growth opportunities

The LVEDC Local Sourcing and Business Diversity Council also supports our small business community through education, training, networking and driving awareness regarding existing business support services available to grow and sustain businesses.

The Meet the Buyers Expo, held bi-yearly since 2013, continues to be one of the councils primary initiatives and is one of the few options available where small businesses from the Lehigh Valley are able to meet face-to-face with government and private industry procurement professionals to discuss business opportunities.

“Meet the Buyers made it very easy to meet with multiple large customers all in one location,” Kessler said. “Forming these kind of partnerships is great because everybody benefits if the money stays locally. It ultimately helps the Lehigh Valley economy.”

Several of the Lehigh Valley’s larger companies have formed lasting procurement arrangements through the Meet the Buyers Expo, including the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, one of several regional businesses strongly committed to sourcing goods and services locally and through minority- and women-owned businesses.

“We have had many successful partners from the Lehigh Valley, some from pre-opening to present day,” said Jodi Sieger, director of brand marketing at Sands. “We try to include local and diverse businesses in our entire procurement process whenever possible.”

Creating partnerships

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission procures about $19 million annually in goods and services from small, minority-, women- and veteran-owned business, including many in the Lehigh Valley. For example, a company it connected with during the Meet the Buyers Expo now provides recycling bins for all 23 of the Commission’s facilities.

“I was very impressed with the Meet the Buyers Expo,” said Myneca Ojo, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. “… The relationship with the LVEDC Local Sourcing and Business Diversity Council continues to allow for partnerships that extend outreach beyond the area.”

Likewise, the Tobyhanna Army Depot’s local purchasing footprint includes Northampton and Lehigh Counties, according to small business specialist David Kern. These arrangements not only benefit the Depot, Kern said, but the contracts awarded help foster economic development throughout the Lehigh Valley.

“We like to be a good business partner,” Kern said. “We love to work with local partners if we can identify them, and this is how the Expo helped us. We start local and branch out from there, and we always try to give local companies the chance.”

The LVEDC Local Sourcing and Business Diversity Council is also organizing an October 20 event focused on local sourcing and the importance of supplier diversity. Companies will be able to learn more about how to implement a local and diversity sourcing initiative, hear from companies successfully engaged in programs, and network with local firms they can do business with.

Additional details on that event will be forthcoming.

The Council coordinates the Expo with nine other Lehigh Valley small business organizations: Community Action Council of the Lehigh Valley, Community Action Development Committees of Allentown & Bethlehem, Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board, Lehigh University Small Business Development Center, Nazareth-Bath Area Chamber of Commerce, Manufacturers Resource Center, Slate Belt Area Chamber of Commerce, and Whitehall Area Chamber of Commerce.

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