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Virginia Beach looking to fill city contracts with small business owners at annual 'Industry Day' event

Virginia Beach city leaders are making sure small, women, and minority-owned businesses have a chance to leave their mark on Virginia Beach.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Small, women, and minority-owned business owners got a chance to connect firsthand with contracting opportunities in Virginia Beach.

Monday morning marked the city's second annual “Industry Day." 

Virginia Beach city leaders said there's a lot of money to go around, and they want everyone to get a piece of the pie.

The Hive in Virginia Beach is a resource center for small business owners, entrepreneurs, and job seekers. Today it was home to The SWaM Business Office Industry Day. SWaM stands for: Small, Women, and Minority-owned businesses.

City leaders from three departments were there, targeting small business owners, hoping they’d bid on the city contracts that are up for grabs.

“So we have our public works, our public utilities, as well as our fire department – they are here as well," said Virginia Beach acting purchasing agent Lavera Tolentino. “Our city council has been very progressive in moving towards SWaM participating in city contracting so that’s our overall goal here, to have SWaM certified businesses or SWaM businesses, in general, participate in city contracting.” 

Tolentino said there is one area in particular city leaders are focused on: flooding.

“The city has a food protection program and it’s called 'Ripple Effects.' We have a lot of flood protection opportunities coming up for businesses to bid on or to know about," she said.

This is the second time the city has hosted the event.

“In an effort to help SWaM businesses either do a joint venture, or even know about the projects so they’re prepared," Tolentino explained.

Katie Shannon of the city's Public Works Engineering sector said with flooding a priority for Virginia Beach, her team would like to see more SWaM businesses come on board and bid on contracts that otherwise might go to larger corporations.

“We want to spread the money around," Shannon said. "There is a ton of public works infrastructure funding right now and we’d really like to give opportunities to everyone.” 

It also helps expand the city’s reach as they contend with an ongoing worker shortage. 

“We have run into those issues and we’re doing a lot of things to combat that," Shannon said. “We have a ton of upcoming opportunities and we would love for the SWaM Business community to respond to them."

The event is open to engineers, contractors, or anyone interested in doing business with the city. In addition to getting a look at contracting opportunities, participants also got an insight into navigating the Virginia Beach procurement process.

Tolentino said Virginia Beach city manager Patrick Duhaney pushed for an annual Industry Day event in the city to target small businesses, and they are planning to host the third one next year.

She added, however, city leaders expect Public Works to hold more events like this throughout the year to fill city contracts related to the flood protection program.

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