Fort Riley is partnering with state entities to make it easier for small businesses to receive government contract work.

In partnership with the Kansas Procurement Technical Assistance Center, Fort Riley hosted the Small Business Procurement Day in Topeka, Kansas, May 7, to get local business owners face-to-face with buyers for government agencies.

The Kansas PTAC is funded through Wichita State University, Pittsburg State University, Johnson County Community College, the City of Wichita and GO Topeka. The groups work to assist businesses get into the marketplace to obtain government jobs. For most government agencies, businesses must be registered in a government database and pass a series of guidelines to be eligible, including having adequate financial resources and being in business at least a year.

Glenda Washington, senior vice president of Entrepreneurial and Minority Business Development at the Kansas Department of Commerce in Topeka, said they had hosted events like the day of seminars and networking before, but never to this extent.

"Fort Riley had a dream and it became a perfect storm because we all wanted the same thing," she said.

She said all she and others in similar positions wanted was the small business owners to leave with the confidence to register their business, bid on contracts and to build opportunities.

John Adams, director of business development at HFG Architecture in Wichita, said his business is already registered for the program and doing government work, but he wanted to meet some of the buyers and see what projects were available in the coming months.

Representatives from nine government agencies presented what they wanted out of businesses and what might soon be available. Agencies included the 509th Bomb Wing, McConnell Air Force Base, United States Property and Fiscal Office, Kansas State University, the City of Topeka, Coen Services, the Kansas City Area Transit Authority, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Adams said days like the one in Topeka are useful because the process to register a business can be difficult.

"Once you get set up and get a first bid in, then it gets a little easier, but it's complicated and can be intimidating, I think," Adams said. "It's more dotting the I's and crossing the T's … It's more work and effort than a lot of other bids."

Jennifer Trevino, a purchasing agent for K-State, said she appreciated the opportunity to get to speak with small business owners who may not have known they qualify to bid on government projects.

"It's a great opportunity to get more solicitation in a broader audience," Trevino said. "For us, we can only go through our website or through the public register. So for this kind of word-of-mouth event, it's nice to network with all the other agencies as well as the businesses."

Washington said they hope to collaborate more with Fort Riley and other interested government entities in the future. Before the end of the day, she said she'd already seen what the networking aspect can do.

"I was at a table with three vendors and one buyer, and the buyer started talking about what he needed and it just happen to be that each person at that table could provide what he needed," she said. "He could use each one of them. And that's what this is about, making a match happen. It's just as hard for the buyer as it is for the businesses."

The Kansas PTAC program can help businesses get registered correctly, teach vendors how to submit invoices, prepare owners for conferences and interviews and more. More information about the program is available at www.kansasptac.org.