MARKETPLACE, the Governor’s Conference on Diverse Business Development, once again set new records in 2019, drawing record numbers of registrants, exhibitors and buyers.
The two-day conference brings together minority-, woman-, veteran- and LGBTQ-owned businesses for networking, education and training, and one-on-one meetings with buyers to forge connections or even make deals on the spot. The businesses can also connect with service providers to help them expand their capacity.
Governor Tony Evers emphasized the significance of the annual conference, now in its 38th year, during the Governor’s Awards Breakfast.
“To meet the challenges ahead of us, we must recognize how important inclusion, equity and diversity are to a strong economy,” he said. “These awards showcase the important contributions that minority-owned, women-owned and service-disabled veteran–owned businesses make to our communities every day—and how they are an important part of building an economy that works for all of us.”
The conference, held Oct. 23-24 at the Potawatomi Hotel & Conference Center in Milwaukee, included workshops on demographic trends in Wisconsin, the state supplier diversity certification programs, cybersecurity tips for businesses, and contracting opportunities including the new Komatsu campus, the Wisconsin Center expansion and the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee. Companies also got a chance to hear about the Wisconsin Supplier Network, where they can create listings and allow their products to be found by companies specifically looking to buy what they offer.
Outstanding small and large businesses, as well as newer “rising stars,” in the woman-owned, minority-owned and service-disabled veteran–owned business categories were recognized during the Governor’s Awards Breakfast, with additional awards recognizing individuals for their distinguished service to support diverse businesses presented during a reception the evening before.
For the first time this year, the event began with a Contracting Academy organized by WEDC with the Wisconsin Procurement Institute. Featuring speakers from state and federal government as well as service providers and the private sector, the half-day workshop offered insights for winning government contracts.
A total of 841 people registered—a new record for the conference. New records were also set for the number of exhibitors in the Expo Hall—105—and the number of people registered for the evening reception—more than 400. Several components of the event had to be moved to larger event spaces within the venue to meet the increased demand.
“We are thrilled with the event’s continued growth, which is a testament to the strength of the communities it serves,” says Seyoum Mengesha, minority and small business development director for WEDC, which hosted the conference. “We are grateful to our partners and sponsors, without whom this conference wouldn’t be possible. It is truly a collaborative effort.”