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Department of General Services Hosts First Summit to Educate Pennsylvania Small and Small Diverse Businesses on Contracting with the Commonwealth


The inaugural summit featured remarks from Governor Shapiro and Lieutenant Governor Davis, panel discussions led by industry professionals, and networking with Commonwealth procurement professionals.

 Building on Governor Shapiro's Executive Order to improve state procurement practices and create more opportunities for small and small diverse businesses, the summit connected Pennsylvania businesses with state contracting opportunities in the Commonwealth.    

Harrisburg, PA – Last week, the Pennsylvania Department of General Services (DGS) hosted its inaugural Small Business Empowerment Summit, a two-day conference aimed at connecting small, small diverse, and veteran-owned businesses with state contracting opportunities in the Commonwealth. The summit gave small businesses in Pennsylvania a better understanding of Commonwealth procurement opportunities, available resources to capital, and how the Shapiro-Davis Administration is working to make state contracting easier for them.

This is the latest step the Administration and DGS are taking to support small and small diverse businesses – building on the Executive Order signed by Governor Shapiro to improve state procurement practices. DGS has also reduced the time it takes to certify a small business in the Commonwealth by 33% and implemented a prompt pay policy to ensure small diverse business and veteran-owned business subcontractors receive faster payment for goods and services provided to the Commonwealth under state contracts.

"DGS was honored to be able to give members of Pennsylvania's small business community the opportunity to directly interact with our agency, our Commonwealth agency partners, legislative offices, and other businesses," said DGS Secretary Reggie McNeil. "Creating this space for collaboration and education began the process of breaking down the barriers of trust and access that exist between state government and the people we serve and reiterated the Shapiro Administration's renewed commitment to inclusive procurement."

Day one included opening remarks from Secretary McNeil, and a networking reception for small business members to connect with DGS and Commonwealth procurement professionals. Day two included three panel discussions that covered the state of small business in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania state contracting opportunities, and access to capital; a state agency networking fair to showcase Commonwealth procurements, and a luncheon that featured remarks from Governor Josh Shapiro and Lieutenant Governor Austin Davis.

"The Bureau of Diversity, Inclusion, and Small Business Opportunities has made significant progress in simplifying the process for businesses to work with the Commonwealth, increasing the number of eligible businesses in its database, and raising awareness of opportunities, but we know that we must do more," said DGS Deputy Secretary of Diversity, Inclusion, and Small Business Opportunities Kerry Kirkland. "The Small Business Empowerment Summit was a next step in connecting small businesses to the resources they need to be successful in the contracting process. We are thankful for the support of the Shapiro Administration in moving this important work forward and look forward to putting on this event every year."

Last month, Governor Shapiro signed Executive Order 2023-18, to increase opportunities for small and small diverse businesses to secure prime contracts with the Commonwealth and improve state procurement practices. The order directs DGS, under the leadership of Secretary McNeil, to lead and coordinate efforts with agencies to increase their total operational spend and participation in the Commonwealth's Small Business Reserve (SBR) program, and foster more competitive procurement across all Commonwealth agencies. DGS will post semiannual data for each agency's total operational spend for SBR procurements and will develop a new methodology for determining the revenue limit for small businesses that will result in an increase in the number of businesses that qualify as small businesses.

The Executive Order also establishes the Pennsylvania Advisory Council for Inclusive Procurement (PACIP) to advise Commonwealth agencies on ways to make state contracting opportunities more inclusive. The PACIP will be chaired by Lieutenant Governor Austin Davis, with DGS Secretary Reggie McNeil and the Department of Transportation Secretary Mike Carroll serving as co-vice chairs.

Summit panel moderators and participants included Chief Program Officer of the Black Squirrel Thom Webster; WBEC-East President Elizabeth Walsh; President and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce Regina A. Hairston; Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership Director of Government Affairs Curtis Jones, Jr.; Founder and Chairman of Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia Narashima Shenoy; Omicelo Founder Joshua Pollard; Senior Vice President and Director of Lending at Community First Fund Alba Fernandez; U.S. Small Businesses Administration Harrisburg Branch Manager Solomon Wheeler; and a host of representatives from the Pennsylvania Departments of Transportation, Community and Economic Development, Labor and Industry, Corrections, and Human Services.

"The summit is an excellent opportunity to break down barriers and to provide access to information that will allow small diverse businesses to work with the Commonwealth," said Regina A. Hairston, President and CEO of the African-American Chamber of Commerce of PA, NJ, DE. "It also serves as a signal that the Shapiro-Davis Administration is focused and committed to inclusive economic growth. I am super excited by Secretary McNeil's execution in ushering in a new era in government contracting."

"The U.S. Small Business Administration's (SBA) mission is to help Americans start and grow businesses, and is focused on expanding its reach to underserved entrepreneurs and communities," said Solomon Wheeler, Harrisburg Branch Manager at the U.S. Small Business Administration. "The 2023 Small Business Empowerment Summit conducted by Pennsylvania's Department of General Services and BDISBO was an excellent event and enabled the SBA to connect with Pennsylvania's small businesses and fulfill that objective."

Under the Shapiro-Davis Administration, DGS also worked to ensure Pennsylvania is open for business for small and small diverse businesses by:

  • Reducing the time it takes to certify a small business with DGS by 33%;
  • Implementing a prompt pay policy to ensure non construction prime contractors pay subcontractors within 10 days of receiving payment from the Commonwealth;
  • Conducting frequent Supplier Search workshops aimed at educating small minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses on the available contracting opportunities within DGS's construction and commodities bureaus; and
  • Notifying businesses of upcoming contracting opportunities on a monthly basis to allow for better resource planning and statewide outreach efforts to grow the pool of registered SBs/SDBs/VBEs.

To learn more about BDISBO or to certify your SB/SDB/VBE visit BDISBO online.

MEDIA CONTACT: Madeline Williams, DGS,  

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