UMSL hosts lunch event aimed at engaging local businesses

Engaging Local Business, William Lemon

William Lemon (at right) tells attendees of the Engaging Local Business event about resources they can take advantage of at Innovative Technology Services at UMSL, including FlipZone, the training program for small, entrepreneurial businesses looking to scale up. (Photos by Steve Walentik)

The University of Missouri–St. Louis opened its doors to neighbors in the local business community last week in an effort to foster cooperation that can benefit all of north St. Louis County.

Owners of a diverse mix of businesses – everything from Roper’s Ribs barbecue restaurant and D’s Place Banquet Hall to Charles Hooker Horticulture landscaping company and Hidden Treasures boutique shop – filled Room 202 of the J.C. Penney Conference Center last Tuesday. They shared lunch and learned both about the process of becoming a registered supplier for the university and resources UMSL has that can help business grow and thrive.

The event was part of UMSL’s anchor mission initiative to use its economic power, in combination with its human and intellectual resources, to better the long-term welfare of the surrounding community.

“We really wanted to make sure that we had an event where the business community and university could talk to each other about how they can work together – what resources are out there to support the north county economy,” said Karl Guenther, a community development specialist in UMSL’s Public Policy Research Center.

Engaging Local Business, Tii Young

Tii Young (center), president of Impressive Work Construction Firm, introduces himself to other attendees of last week’s Engaging Local Business event at the J.C. Penney Conference Center.

Guenther is a member of the university’s anchor mission committee, which is guided by a framework created by the Democracy Collaborative’s Anchor Dashboard. He organized last week’s gathering.

Teresa Vest, the director of supplier accountability and outreach for the University of Missouri System, opened with a presentation on the process of becoming a registered supplier for the university.

Larry Eisenberg, associate vice chancellor for facilities management, spoke to attendees about some of the small contracts opportunities available at UMSL.

“We currently have needs for help with a variety of different work,” Eisenberg said. “As Teresa said, there are different rules depending on what kind of work you’re doing. I’m not here to talk to you about your $50 million project today. But we do have a lot of small projects that are coming up. What we’re really looking to do is to try to develop relationships with local businesses, especially small businesses.”

The second half of the program was used to highlight some of the resources area businesses can access to help fuel their own success.

William Lemon, the director of scientific and computing services at Innovative Technology Enterprises at UMSL, presented on FlipZone, a training program for small, entrepreneurial businesses looking to scale up.

Procurement specialist Millie Miller-Hoover talked about Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, a partner of the University of Missouri Extension. They assist businesses — including small, disadvantaged and women-owned firms — in obtaining federal, state and local government contracts, and Miller-Hoover oversees the St. Louis County Extension site.

Finally, Dan Lauer, the founding executive director of UMSL Accelerate, spotlighted some ways local businesses can benefit from its three-pillar structure of educate, innovate and collaborate, including its entrepreneur in residence program.

Tii Young, the president of Impressive Work Construction Firm, was one of the business owners in attendance. He was grateful for the opportunity it provided to network with other entrepreneurs as well as learn more about the university and its programs.

“You don’t necessarily have to have all the big money, the big name – that organizations and industries like this are reaching back to the smaller companies and helping them pull themselves up and just help them in a manner that they need,” Young said. “A lot of people don’t even have the knowledge to make that next step in business or in life. That’s why I think that UMSL gets kudos on my view for what they’re doing helping out with smaller contractors.

“I’m going to make sure that I actually act on the knowledge that was given. It will not come back void to the presenters and to the UMSL staff. I will be one to facilitate all the information that I got.”

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