MANCHESTER — Small-business people from around New England descended on Manchester Community College on Friday to connect with big businesses.
“It’s very much like speed-dating,” said Liora Stone, president of Precision Engineering in Uxbridge, Mass. “You have to put your best foot forward very quickly.”
About 150 people, mostly from New Hampshire, attended the matchmaker event, where business people met face-to-face with small-business specialists from government agencies and major government contractors.
New Hampshire saw a record year for federal contracts and subcontracts, according to Dave Pease, program manager of the New Hampshire Procurement Technical Assistance Center.
Try $2.4 billion made to companies with New Hampshire addresses for the year ending Sept. 30, 2017, Pease said.
Clifford Pafford, owner of WB Sealer Systems in Jaffrey, attended his first matchmaker event a year ago.
“I got four contracts out of it last year,” Pafford said. “It allows me to get in front of the prime contractors and government contractors that would take years to get in front of.”
Stone said she clinched a deal at last year’s event with what has become one of her largest clients. She had had previous contact with that company, but last year’s timing proved right and “because we were top of mind.”
Leo Arel, materials manager at the North Berwick, Maine, plant of aircraft engine maker Pratt & Whitney, said his company is growing and needs more capability.
“We’re looking for other opportunities to expand our supply chain capacity,” said Arel, who handled a steady stream of interest Friday morning. “I’m interested to see if we’ll have manufacturing talent.”
He estimated several hundred New Hampshire residents work at the North Berwick plant.
Those meeting with Arel included Tom Bronson, general manager and chief of sales for North Country Engineering in Derby, Vt.
“Typically, you go and knock on the door and you can’t get by security,” Bronson said about trying to approach large companies.
Wendell Davis, regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, said the SBA has specific programs to help prepare companies to secure federal contract work.
He said these matchmaker events are “incredibly important.”
“Just breaking down that barrier, which sometimes that barrier is as simple as getting together,” Davis said in an interview.
Amalia Hernandez, project coordinator with the Northeast division of the Small Business Transportation Resource Center, said many people fail to do their research ahead of time and don’t follow up after meeting with potential clients.
Technology, she said, can’t always replace face-to-face encounters.
“You work with the one you know,” she said.