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Mississippi Contract Procurement Center merges with MDA

Small, minority business opportunities should be enhanced

The merger of the Mississippi Contract Procurement Center (MCPC) with the Minority and Small Business Development Division of the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) will further bolster an already positive state business climate, according to the new entity’s director.

Director Richard Speights said, “The business climate in Mississippi is one of the most friendly in the country. There is no shortage of opportunity, and we expect to greatly increase those opportunities for minority and small businesses.”

Speights, a retired officer of the U.S. Navy who worked with government contracts while on active duty, spent seven years as executive director of the MCPC before taking the helm as director of MDA’s Minority and Small Business Development Division. “Our program has been recognized as being an innovative leader, one of the top 10 in the country consistently. We are a model for other procurement operations in other states,” he said.

He sees the merger as a way of increasing government contracts with the state’s small businesses. As it was structured, the MCPC did not have the ability to procure federal contracts. The uniting of the two groups under MDA will remove the gap that existed. Small businesses may also get additional funding and bonding.

His division is made up of two bureaus. One is business development, with seven employees, and is involved with assisting small businesses with business plans, marketing and bonding. The other is procurement and will continue to work with contracts. Presently, procurement centers are located in Biloxi, Columbus, Greenville, Meridian and Jackson. The Jackson Center will come under the MDA and the others will remain as private, nonprofit operations with only one of the 10 employees becoming a state employee.

“The MCPC has worked with the state even though it hasn’t been a part of the state. Now that we’re making it formal, I’m very optimistic about increasing the access that businesses throughout the state will have to government contracts,” Speights said.

He says he talks to his counterparts with procurement centers in other states where business development groups are not synergized as they are in Mississippi. The other states are interested in seeing how the merger will work here.

The MCPC serves approximately 1,800 state businesses that report receiving collectively 1,500 contracts valued at more than $200 million annually. Of those 1,800 businesses, 382 are minority owned and receive nearly $30 million in contracts. Approximately 366 are women-owned businesses receiving nearly $21 million annually in contracts.

The centers use an advanced electronic system to locate contracts all over the country and notify businesses daily to opportunities that match their business profiles. The network is made up of 1,000 purchasing offices that are required by state law to send their leads to the procurement office. The MCPC was recognized nationally for this innovative law.

“Now the relationship is state with federal, and it’s not costing one more penny. It has the same funding,” Speights said. “The state has always focused on helping small businesses. This merger is an opportunity to strengthen economic development and the procurement program.”

He points out that the MDA has funding stability and a tremendous number of resources in the way of employees’ expertise and computers that will make the procurement process stronger. The staff will provide a full range of assistance from initial certification to proposal preparation through contract completion and auditing. The procurement office will also have access to the MDA division that works with existing industry. This division can work with small businesses that want to conduct international business. Before, small businesses did not have direct access to these resources.

All of this, Speights says, translates into expanded opportunities all the way around.

“I have no artificial goals as to what we will do. I see it as a continuous process and improvement model to provide better service,” he said.

The state’s small businesses run the gamut, including small construction companies, information technology companies, landscapers and many subcontractors that large businesses need.

“Anything governments need from toilet paper to missile systems, we have it,” the director added.

In addition to electronic bid match notification, the procurement centers provide counseling and marketing assistance, technical resources, customized reports, seminars and workshops and networking for the state’s small businesses. Speights points out that these facilities are staffed by retired government professionals who are capable of helping business owners interpret specifications and put together bid proposals.

Speaking of the merger, Gov. Haley Barbour said, “In our efforts to leverage resources, this is a natural combination. This action represents the combination of a technologically-advanced delivery system with the talents of MDA and other state agencies providing business development assistance to women-owned and minority-owned businesses applying for federal, state and local contracts.”

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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