Rockford expo connects small businesses with government agencies

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) – Landing with a government agency can mean new levels of success for many small businesses, but obstacles can get in the way of a deal in many cases.

On Wednesday, several organizations and businesses were represented at the UW Health Sports Facility. It was about reducing bureaucracy.

“It’s great to have people and really have these open conversations about supplier diversity,” said Matthew Worley, Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging for the Rockford Park District.

Local small businesses had the chance to connect with government agencies in Rockford at the first-ever “Cutting the Red Tape” exhibit.

“It’s no lie that there’s a lot of bureaucracy when it comes to working with governments, whether you’re big or small,” Worley said.

One of the goals of the event was to ensure that all companies interested in working with these agencies knew how to go about it. Another goal was to create greater diversity among suppliers.

“Well, we really want to deal with small businesses. Minority, women, disabled and veteran owned businesses are really important to us,” said Tamara Ray, purchasing manager for the Rockford Park District. “We really feel we need to diversify our supplier database.”

The Park District, RPS 205 and other agencies shared their upcoming plans for 2023 and how local businesses can work with them.

“I just think having the list of different service contracts that we’re looking for is really good and valuable for everyone to come and find out,” Ray said.

There were a variety of projects, ranging from large-scale service projects to smaller projects.

“We’re looking to understand those entities or businesses in our community that we may not currently be working with, and we’d like to work with them,” Worley said.

The focus was on supplier diversity and building community connections.

“It’s really a win-win situation, you know, to make sure we can create an opportunity for everyone. On our window you’ll see it says, ‘Rockford Parks is a place where everyone is invited and belongs’, and that also involves business,” Worley said. “We won’t stop until we can make sure all companies feel like they can be part of our organization.”

Organizers plan to make the expo an annual event. Those unable to attend Wednesday afternoon can arrange a one-on-one meeting through the purchase page on the Rockford Parks website.

Ashley C. Reynolds