Story by Mark Rankin
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – More than 266 business owners, managers and reps from as far away as California and Texas gathered at the Tennessee State University, Avon Williams Campus, March 13, to hear a Medal of Honor recipient speak and to collect information on federal, state and local procurement systems during the 3rd Annual Small Business Training Forum.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Small Business Office, Society of American Military Engineers Nashville Post, local businesses, and USACE experts, contracting, engineering and operations participated during the event. They worked to educate business professionals about available tools and resources and provided information on how to obtain assistance with the procurement process.
Dr. Ruthie Reynolds, executive director of the Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Center at Tennessee State University, welcomed small business representatives to the Avon Williams Campus and briefly talked about the university’s continued support for small business.
After Reynolds remarks, Lt. Col. John L. Hudson, Nashville District commander and Society of American Military Engineers Nashville Post president, also welcomed the small business representatives in attendance.
“Some of you have done business with the federal government in the past, including the Nashville and Louisville Districts, but for many of you federal government procurement is a new process,” Hudson said. “Our objective today is to let you know what tools and assistance are available. And if you are already doing business with federal, state and local governments, hopefully you will learn something new that can help with your business endeavors.”
Hudson then introduced the keynote speaker for the event Medal of Honor recipient Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer. Meyer, a native of Columbia, Ky., is the first living U.S. Marine in 41 years to have earned the honor.
Meyer thanked Hudson, the Corps and everyone in attendance for providing him the opportunity to speak at the forum. He explained briefly how he enlisted in the Marine Corps, his journey since Sept. 8, 2009, and how he was awarded for heroic actions in Ganjgal, Afghanistan, that rescued 36 U.S. and Afghan troops.
Meyer completed his active duty in 2010 and now serves in the Individual Ready Reserve of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. Since returning to civilian life, Sgt. Meyer is currently the president of Dakota Meyer Enterprises Incorporated and most recently received his first federal contract from the Corps of Engineers.
“It is certainly a great opportunity to come here, network, and meet so many good people,” said Meyer. “Business is about people and people working together.”
Meyer talked about challenges of cultures, learning to put aside differences and using his learned military communication skills to forge relationships in business.
Following his speech, Hudson provided an overview of the district’s projects and contracting opportunities.
Participants then asked questions, and spent time networking and meeting with contracting and government representatives in booths just outside of the TSU auditorium.
Roy Rossignol, Nashville District Small Business manager, said the Society of American Military Engineers and Tennessee Small Business Development Center sponsored the event to enable small businesses opportunities with USACE and to network with USACE experts.
“We are very happy with this year’s turnout and excited to have Sgt. Meyer motivate and speak to us about business,” said Rossignol.
The businesses that attended met with vendors, networked with other businesses, interacted with government agencies, and picked topics of interest during three breakout training sessions throughout the forum.
Molly Malone, a representative from the Parent Company, a commercial and industrial subcontract based in Nashville, Tenn., said her company has not done business with the federal government and values events like this training seminar that helps unlock processes and provides a forum for networking with potential subcontracts and potential clients.
“This is a great environment and forum to network with other businesses and events like this provide avenue for us,” said Malone.
Malone said she had the opportunity to hear, meet and talk with Meyer at the event and it was the highlight of the forum.
“How cool is that? To meet a Medal of Honor winner and network too,” said Malone.
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Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
About Tennessee State University
With nearly 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.