Small businesses tap expertise at fair
Hundreds explore opportunities in green practices, BRAC
More than 200 businesspeople recently descended on Prince George's Community College to seek help and advice on a range of issues, from federal contracting and gaining access to capital to cashing in on environmental incentives and programs.
Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Dist. 3) of Pikesville hosted the Small Business Opportunity Fair on May 3 in Largo, which also included workshops on contracting opportunities under the Pentagon's Base Realignment and Closure program and other topics.
Ernest L. Murphy, president of Hospitality Development in Columbia, was among the participants.
"My main reason for showing up was to get the scope on financing, since almost nobody is financing hotel construction right now," Murphy said.
Hospitality Development is among the companies involved in developing the 466-acre Melford property in Bowie. Murphy's group is building three Marriott hotels at a cost of $45 million.
Murphy attended the green business panel, hoping to learn about tax credits for building his hotels up to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Green building tax credits have been so popular in certain counties that interest has exceeded funding, said Laura Armstrong, coordinator for the state's Maryland Green Registry through the Department of the Environment. The registry lists businesses that pledge to use several sustainability and renewable-energy practices. Armstrong encouraged attendees to contact their counties for information on environmental incentives and programs.
Panelists also discussed other opportunities for businesses looking to get involved in the environmental practices.
"We're really eager to get small business involved," said Hannah Polikov, manager of Cross-Cutting Energy & Climate Issues at the Maryland Energy Administration.
She explained the business opportunities offered through some of the $70 million in funding the state received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, including low-interest loans to companies involved in green projects.
The U.S. General Services Administration also is looking for businesses that specialize in green practices, particularly consulting, said Mark Ewing, director of the energy division for the GSA.
He said the government needs businesses to teach environmentally friendly practices and monitor actual energy savings, aside from just providing construction.
Chikezie Maduka, owner of Chyke Dimension in Landover, came to ask Anthony Ruiz, director of the Maryland Small Business Development Center, about certifying his computer equipment company as a small disadvantaged business.
Maduka said he also has been facing difficulties with financing and winning subcontracts.
"I've learned networking is especially important," said Alfonza J. Riley, owner of RNVUS, a Laurel startup that plans to offer mobile ultrasound services. "People need to put a name to a face."