SBA and US Black Chamber Host Matchmaker

The U.S. Small Business Administration and U.S. Black Chamber Inc. have teamed up to help small minority businesses access guidance on federal contracting, face-to-face meetings, and match-making opportunities in teaming up with larger companies and graduates of government’s Small Business Administration (SBA) Business Development program. The new partnership recently gave way to a one-day free National 8(a) Training, Business Matchmaking and Awards Ceremony held at the Carnegie Library in Washington, DC on October 10.

“SBA and U.S. Black Chamber are partners in a major effort to expand outreach and support to underserved minority business communities that have been hit harder by the economy than other sectors,” says SBA Deputy Administrator Marie C. Johns. The goal is to help participating companies leverage their assets and capabilities and to take businesses to a higher level.

Co-hosting this special event, “was an exceptional opportunity to partner with the SBA and provide a chance to recognize the firms who have worked diligently over the last year, despite harsh economic conditions, and managed to successfully grow their businesses,” adds Ron Busby, President and CEO of the U.S. Black Chamber Inc., the trade group supporting African American Chambers of Commerce and small business organizations nationwide.

During several scheduled forums, small businesses will learn how to market themselves to the federal government and go after federal contracting opportunities. The forum also will offer help with strategic alliances, joint venture opportunities, and mentor-protege arrangements within the 8(a) Program. The SBA encourages larger firms to team with a smaller firm to help with financing, management, and technical assistance

“The SBA does an incredible job of taking companies like mine and putting them together with companies that can enhance their business. They vet those particular companies and grow those companies that are part of 8(a),” says Keith Tillage, the co-owner of Tillage Construction LLC, an SBA assisted business based in Baton
Rouge, Louisiana. “I started with the 8(a) program in 2003. My company wouldn’t be where it is today without it.”

Tillage used the SBA’s help in developing a strategic business plan. The SBA also helped expand and increase the company’s contracting opportunities by linking the firm with federal agencies through the 8(a) program. The company’s first major client was the United States Department of Agriculture. Today, Tillage Construction is working federal contracts worth about $20 million.

Tillage Construction was a finalist for the 2012 Black Enterprise Small Business of the Year award and named the PTAC HUBZone Business of the Year.  It was recognized in 2012 as one of the fastest growing private companies in America by Inc. 5000.

The family business has evolved from a simple hobby of making cabinets started by Keith’s father, Ken Tillage, 20 years ago into a full-service commercial construction company. After leaving corporate America, Keith teamed up with his father in 2000 to form Tillage Construction, a general contracting business specializing in design build, renovation, new construction, and demolition for the government and the private sector. Tillage Construction grew revenues 285% from $2 million in 2007 to $7.7 million in 2010. Revenues for 2011 topped $18.3 million with a staff of 16 full-time employees.

Not only does Tillage hire many of the residents from the Baton Rouge community, but he also utilizes as many subcontractors located in the area as possible. Those subcontractors who do not have the capacity to work on projects with Tillage Construction are encouraged to use the company as a resource and mentor to assist in their growth and development.

Tillage is excited about the National 8(a) Training and Matchmaking forum, noting how critical SBA programs are in helping small disadvantaged businesses to grow and compete in the open market. “I started very small and built my company brick by brick,” says Tillage. “You have to build your own capacity so that you get to a point where you are a viable player, where you can really sit down at the negotiation table and become a joint venture partner.”

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