CHICAGO - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chicago District hosted its second annual Business Opportunities Open House Feb. 20 for companies interested in job opportunities with the district and others in the surrounding area.

"It's an honor to meet you and make some connections and talk about doing business," Col. Aaron Reisinger, commander, USACE Chicago District, said. "Today is about building partnerships and gaining a common understanding. So please ask questions. We want more bids on our projects to support a greater array in our region. We want you to understand the Corps and enjoy working with the Corps. We are Chicago District but we represent the entire Corps and we want to work with you."

About 125 business leaders attended the event at the Chicago District's headquarters on South La Salle St. The Corps set up tables around the room where businesses could meet experts in construction, safety, civil, mechanical, electrical, structural, interagency and international services, public affairs, emergency management, contracting, and small business.

The purpose of the event is to provide direct access to leadership and to Corps officials most knowledgeable about the district's operations, missions, and future requirements. The Chicago District's mission focuses on flood risk management and storm damage reduction, navigation, environment, regulatory, emergency management, and interagency and international services. It's one of seven districts that comprise the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division. Its other districts include Buffalo, Detroit, Huntington, Louisville, Nashville, and Pittsburgh.

"I love coming here," Donald Pellico, business opportunities specialist from the Small Business Administration, said. "I meet a lot of interesting people. It's cozy enough where you can form a good conversation. And the Corps is trying to be helpful. These are very sincere interactions. It's real. Not fake. We love coming here and my firms who come here brag about coming here."

The participants had three hours to get to know Chicago District personnel, and early feedback indicates many took full advantage of the opportunity of the free-flow of information. The majority were from the state of Illinois followed by Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, and Wisconsin with a good mixture of small, other-than-small, service-disabled, women-owned, 8(a) small disadvantaged, and veteran-owned small businesses.

"We need to attend events like this to look at what opportunities are upcoming," said Dave Krueger of Environmental Monitoring and Technologies, Inc. in Morton Grove. "It's a way to communicate. I'm here to tell people about EMT, a DOD-certified testing lab. Not only are we DOD certified, but we are also a Service-Disabled-Veteran-Owned Small Business. There is a heightened awareness of SDVOSBs and a highlighted outreach. It gets us a seat at the table but it doesn't guarantee success. But it gives us a chance to compete and that's what we're looking for. A chance to compete."

Michelle Williams, deputy for Small Business, encouraged everyone to continue to attend outreach events like this, and to monitor the district's (www.lrc.usace.army.mil) and Federal Business Opportunities websites (www.fbo.gov).

"The event was successful and we had a great turn out for the BOOH," Michelle Williams, deputy for Small Business, said. "I hope that individuals learn more about the working with the Corps and the current opportunities we have."

For more information and how to do business with us, visit www.lrc.usace.army.mil/smallbusiness/. For a list of current contract opportunities, email lrc.sbo@usace.army.mil.