Small Business Administration and IBM Create Supplier Connection
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has taken a major step toward leveling the playing field for small businesses hoping to work with corporate America. In conjunction with more than a dozen of the country's largest corporations, the SBA launched Supplier Connection to help local businesses find opportunities to supply to some of the world's largest buyers.
Supplier Connection will allow small businesses, defined as those with less than $50 million in annual revenue or with fewer than 500 employees, to list a company profile on the site. Larger businesses looking for vendors can then browse by category to look for local businesses from which to source.
The SBA worked with the IBM Foundation to create the online portal, which will by that company as well as the follow 14 others when looking for vendors: Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD), AT&T Corp., Bank of America Corp., Caterpillar Inc., Citigroup Inc., Dell Inc., Facebook, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Deere & Co., Kellogg Co., Office Depot Inc., Pfizer Inc., UPS Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. Combined, the 15 companies spend more than $300 billion annually on outside suppliers, and more corporations are expected to join in time.
Supplier Connection was outlined as part of President Obama's American Supplier Initiative, which SBA director Karen Mills introduced on March 21. The initiative seeks to incentives businesses to invest in the U.S. economic infrastructure by buying American-made products and supporting local businesses, and the Supplier Connection website is a lynchpin of that plan.
"Supplier Connection removes barriers that small businesses face in trying to break into large company supply chains," Mills explained. "It also gives large companies exposure to a more diverse array of suppliers, so they can get the best, most innovative suppliers America has to offer. This is especially important for America's small businesses."
"Recent reports show that small suppliers can more than triple revenue growth and more than double job growth only a few years after becoming a large company supplier," she added.
There are several opportunities for members of the promotional products community to use the free online portal. One of the major categories is "Marketing Communications," which it defines as including promotional products, gifts, awards, meeting and event marketing, branding and sales promotion. The "Printing Material and Services" category also provides opportunities, and includes multicolor printing and marketing materials, brochures, pamphlets, catalogs, forms, labels and packaging, while the "Consulting Services" category includes brand strategy and product strategy.
With more consumers interested in local companies and made-in-America authenticity, major corporations are increasingly sourcing their products from U.S. based businesses. IBM, which funded the site with a $10 million grant, said it has already increased the portion it spends with small businesses by $400 to $1.4 billion.
The site does not let small businesses bid on contracts, and does not guarantee that any company that registers will be selected as a source. The goal, according to Richard Parsons, chairman of Citigroup Inc., is to create opportunities for companies that may otherwise never be noticed. He explained that major corporations often stick with the companies they've worked with in the past simply because they do not know what alternatives are available.
"How do I find you, and how do I accredit you?" Parsons asked at the event launching the site last week. With Supplier Connection, he said, he has an answer.
For more information on how to register for Supplier Connection, visit www.supplier-connection.net.
Kyle A. Richardson is the editorial director of Promo Marketing. He joined the company in 2006 brings more than a decade of publishing, marketing and media experience to the magazine. If you see him, buy him a drink.