St. Louis County Vendor Opportunity Fair brings large group of business leaders to UMSL

St. Louis County Vendor Opportunity Fair

County Executive Sam Page addresses a crowd of local business people inside the Summit Lounge last Wednesday during the St. Louis County Vendor Opportunity Fair. (Photo by Steve Walentik)

More than 300 local business owners and other representatives turned up at the J.C. Penney Conference Center at the University of Missouri­–St. Louis last Wednesday as St. Louis County held its first-ever Vendor Opportunity Fair.

It was a chance for them to meet with leaders of various county departments and learn about the process of obtaining contracts with St. Louis County government. Presentations during the daylong fair covered how to become a vendor with St. Louis County and went through the process of bidding and procurement. It also offered attendees a chance to network with other business professionals.

Interim Chancellor and Provost Kristin Sobolik welcomed the group to campus, and County Executive Sam Page delivered a keynote address during lunch in the Summit Lounge.

“We’re open for business, and we want the community to know that,” said Jack Thomas Jr., St. Louis County’s chief diversity officer, who helped organize the fair. “Not many people are aware of all of the business opportunities that are available with St. Louis County.

“We don’t manufacture anything, but we are a purchaser of construction services, office supplies. We have quite a bit of roaming stock, so we need fuel and lubricants and vehicles. The police department needs a uniforms. There’s just a wide variety of things we buy on a regular basis that the general public may not be aware of.”

Thomas said the goal of the event was to broaden the county’s supplier base, and he thinks that can contribute to a stronger community.

Attendees also had a chance to get connected with business opportunities at UMSL with Wayne Martin, UMSL’s assistant director of construction operations, and Kristen Meade, director of University of Missouri Procurement, presenting during the day’s first session. The fair offered real-time registration not only in the St. Louis County Vendor System but also in the UMSL Contracting System.

“UMSL has always been a good partner,” said Hazel Erby, who left her position on the county council in May to become the director of diversity, equity and inclusion under Page. “They’re always very happy to cooperate and collaborate with us for events.”

The fair also served as an opportunity to recognize individuals and organizations excelling at fostering a diverse workforce. The honorees were:

  • Adolphus M. Pruitt of the  St. Louis City Branch NAACP and Robert Hoffmann of Hoffmann Brothers received the Hazel M. Erby Award, which recognizes an individual, company or organization that shares Erby’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and seeks to raise awareness on the value that a diverse workforce, equitable treatment and an inclusive environment brings to St. Louis County.
  • Sal Valadez of Laborer’s International Union of North America, LiUNA-Midwest Region chosen Diversity Champion 2019, an honor that recognizes an organization and/or individual who successfully facilitates culture transformation within the construction industry around issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Sabrina Westfall of J. West Electrical Contraction, LLC received the award for Minority Business Enterprise of the Year 2019, presented to the owner of a minority business enterprise who has been actively engaged with St. Louis County during the previous 12 months. The recipient has demonstrated exemplary management, exceptional leadership, and outstanding workmanship.
  • Emily Martin of Aschinger Electric Company was chosen for the Woman Business Enterprise of the Year 2019, which is presented to the owner of a woman-owned business enterprise who has been actively engaged with St. Louis County during the previous 12 months. The recipient exemplifies outstanding business acumen, industry leadership, and community service.
  • The Department of Transportation and Public Works was named Department of the Year 2019, an honor presented to a county Department that has shown a commitment to changing the procurement culture within St. Louis County. This department has chosen to lead by example in implementing the County’s M/WBE Ordinance by working above and beyond the call of duty, making creative suggestions and developing new work methods to incorporate the M/WBE program requirements.
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