TAMPA — The NFL is already thinking about the vendors it needs to get Tampa Bay ready for Super Bowl LV, and it wants the candidates to be diverse.
The NFL launched its Business Connect program, a partnership between the football league and its Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee, on Monday at Raymond James Stadium. The program will help businesses owned by minorities — including gay, bisexual and transgender people — women and veterans prepare to win Super Bowl vendor contracts.
“There is a new vibrancy in the local business community and we want to tap that," the NFL lead of the program, B.J. Waymer, said at Monday’s news conference.
Tampa last held the Super Bowl a decade ago and 2021 would be its fifth time as host.
“This is not the Tampa of 2009,“ Waymer said. "A lot has changed and it is beautiful.”
Greater Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce board member LaKendria Robinson was named the Business Connect director. The program is chaired by Bemetra Simmons, Mutual of Omaha’s managing director of Florida. Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan favorite, retired linebacker Derrick Brooks, is a co-chair.
The NFL launches Business Connect in every Super Bowl city. South Florida has had its own Business Connect ahead of the Miami game this February.
Tampa Bay Business Connect hopes to sign up at least 300 companies for the program. It doesn’t guarantee any of them will win contracts, but sets them up to be competitive through training classes and networking. The chosen businesses also will be included in a “Business Connect Resource Guide" that’s available to the NFL and Super Bowl event organizers.
Robinson said businesses can only be accepted into the program if they are certified to be at least 51 percent owned by a minority or other qualified individuals; have an office they’ve been in for three years; directly provide one of the services needed; and are in either Hillsborough, Pinellas or Pasco counties.
The program has named about 30 fields that are the most requested by the NFL for the Super Bowl, such as catering, audio/visuals, entertainment, florists, tenting, trailers and security.
“It’s not just about the Super Bowl,” Brooks said after Monday’s presentation. “This could change the narrative, change the longevity and change the capabilities of a business."
Robinson said she wants all participating businesses to gain resources, learn and grow, regardless of whether they clinch one of the coveted contracts.
An information session is scheduled for from 8 to 11 a.m. Nov. 12 at the Bryan Glazer Family Jewish Community Center in Tampa.
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Robinson said the session will go into the details of the program, down to how to get a business certified as minority owned to qualify.