Angel Wood-Mark came to Hillsborough County's Open Doors Forum for women, minority, and small businesses owners 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 March 16 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 annual event where business owners network and learn about doing business with government and private-sector organizations. "I needed to meet that one person," Pamala said. "And I didn't know it until I got here."
Local governments, banks, general contractors, bond agencies, and others sent representatives to the third annual Open Doors Forum, an event that solidifies the County's reputation as a haven for business. They spoke with entrepreneurs and owners of established businesses in focused workshops and at tables set up in the ballroom at TPepin Hospitality Centre.
Perhaps most significantly, the nearly 200 visiting business owners mingled, and exchanged contact information and ideas.
C. Knox Lasister is CEO of a property management and real estate development firm with interests in New Orleans and New York City. He has an eye on the Tampa Bay region, and hoped to learn more at the Open Doors Forum. "I figured this conference would be sort of a flashlight on what's happening in this area," he said.
The 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.The Open Doors Forum is for women, minority, and small business owners.