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Govt depts open up to SMEs at new mingle-fest

Wednesday 9th May 2012

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Small and medium-sized businesses have flocked to an inaugural Meet the Buyer expo in Wellington to offer their wares to big government buyers they would normally struggle to meet.

Christine Bear, managing director at CBA, a strategic IT company, was among the 400-odd businesses pitching their products and services to 15 government agencies, alongside a mini-expo housing a range of organisations designed to support SMEs or work alongside government.

"The current tendering process doesn't really recognise that New Zealand's middle sized businesses have a great deal to offer. They are often overlooked for larger organisations," Bear said.

"Small and medium sized business are the backbone of the economy, they support all the country's workers so the opportunity to engage with government is critical for our survival."

The proof of the new expo-style concept would be when the ministry changes the tendering process to create an even playing field for all businesses, said Bear. Run jointly by Business New Zealand and the Ministry of Economic development, Meet the Buyer offered small to medium sized businesses the chance to promote their products to government buyers, while networking with their peers.

The Wellington-based event is the first of its kind. "We have got meetings, mini expos and speed presentations," said Paul Rayner, event manager. "This is a pilot and in 9 to 12 months' time we want to go to the businesses and agencies here and say did you get any new business?"

"Overseas events like this have business-to-business get-togethers but here it is happening organically," Rayner said. "We are seeing business-to-business mingling which is a byproduct of the whole event." Of the SMEs that attended 50 percent were from outside of Wellington, while about 40 percent met with more than one agency.

The information technology sector was the most popular sector accounting for 30 percent of attendees. Wellington-based business improvement consultancy, Aitch, met with three agencies including the New Zealand Police, the Accident Compensation Corporation and New Zealand Post.

"We needed to be here - the agencies had a need for what we delivered, they just didn't know about us yet," said Don Smith, director. "We may not get any contracts now but it is all about relationship building." Smith said the day wasn't just about forming government relationships but about interacting with other SMEs.

"We meet with four or five different people, while connecting businesses who we thought should talk - that's a positive spin off," Smith said. "There is a strong networking vibe going on outside of the room." Meet the Buyer is looking to become a regular event, with days held in Auckland and Christchurch.

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