A new expo seeks to bring minority Columbia contractors together

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COLUMBIA - The City Supplier Diversity Program and Shelter Insurance teamed up to host the Building Inclusive Partnership’s EXPO for local women, minorities, and disadvantaged business owners. It is the first year the expo has taken place and the goal was to encourage members of the community to build inclusive and successful business relationships.

James Whitt is the director of Supplier Diversity Program Development. He said the event helps foster better business relationships in construction.

“It’s an opportunity for them to meet our prime contractors in the city and to do a better job of getting to know each other.”         

A prime contractor is the type of contractor who works on projects like the building of schools and businesses. Business owners who set up tables at the event did so with hopes of possibly working as sub-contractors. This means smaller businesses would have the opportunity to provide services such as painting, flooring and other types of construction and remodeling.

Stacye Smith is the director of human resources at Shelter Insurance. She said the event is a resource for businesses that encounter a host of different barriers.

“Some business owners are disadvantaged. This could be either socially or financially.”

Smith also explained that social disadvantages could mean lack of connections or networking opportunities.

 The Nehemiah Group is one business that attended the event. Giselle Ballenger is the owner and she said at the end of the day, she hopes to walk away with a host of new opportunities.

“We’re here at the expo because we like to network with other prime contractors and other smaller contractors that we haven’t really talked to before. Let them know who we are, learn who they are and hopefully we can collaborate and partner on some projects.” 

Whitt hopes these kinds of business relationships can continue to foster in years to come.

Local minority and women businesses were allowed free entry into the event and were given a table to display information about their businesses. The program supplied each business that signed up with table runners with their business logo and business cards.