Sponsored content: Network your way into millions of dollars in contracting opportunities – for FREE

Published March 23, 2018

Nearly 200 small business owners mingled, and exchanged information and ideas, at last year's Open Doors Forum for government contracting. On April 5, you can make your own connections at the 5th Annual Open Doors Forum, from 8:30 a.m. to noon at TPepin's Hospitality Centre, 4121 N. 50th St. in Tampa.

The free business networking event helps minority, women, and small business owners connect with opportunities in government contracting. Local governments, banks, general contractors, bond agencies and others send representatives to the annual event that solidifies the County's reputation as a haven for business.

Angel Wood-Mark came to last year's event determined to speak with three people. Ideally, at least one of them would say something that might benefit her general contracting business. Two hours after the forum began, Wood-Mark had made more than a dozen useful contacts. "Just show up," she advised. "You never know who you might run into."

Likewise, Pamala McCoy, a finances consultant, had modest expectations. She was pleasantly surprised with the free event where business owners network and learn about doing business with government and public-sector organizations. "I needed to meet that one person," Pamala said. "And I didn't know it until I got here."

The nearly 40 companies and public-sector organizations scheduled to attend this year's event include:

• Hillsborough County

• City of Tampa

• City of St. Petersburg

• Pinellas County

• Polk County

• Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority

• Hillsborough County Public Schools

• 6th Contracting Squadron

• Hillsborough Area Regional Transit

• University of South Florida

• Hillsborough County Aviation Authority

• Hillsborough Community College

What to know:

Admission is free.

Date: Thursday, April 5, 2018

Time: 8:30 a.m. to noon

• A panel discussion on government contracting will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.

• Doors open for the networking and vendor exhibits at 9 a.m.

Location: TPepin's Hospitality Centre, 4121 N. 50th St. in Tampa

Register: or (813) 307-8309

The Open Doors Forum is organized by Hillsborough County's Disadvantaged Minority/Disadvantaged Women Business Enterprise (DM/DWBE) and Small Business Encouragement (SBE) programs as part of an Economic Development initiative to increase access for minority-owned, women-owned, and small businesses to participate in local government purchasing contracts. The event is hosted in partnership with the Hillsborough County DM/DWBE & SBE Advisory Committee.

Hillsborough County's Economic Development department has certified more than 770 women/minority and small businesses for work on Hillsborough County government projects. Last year, those businesses earned a total of about $46 million for work on County jobs.