Niagara County will host a center whose employees will work with small businesses to help them win federal contracts, officials announced Thursday.
The World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara has received a nearly $300,000 federal grant to establish the Niagara Procurement Technical Assistance Center at Niagara University.
The center will provide mentoring, training and technical assistance to help small businesses -- particularly those owned by women, veterans or people of color -- win contracts from the Department of Defense and the General Services Administration.
"The focus of this grant is to help small businesses sell into the government. It's going to help Niagara County, as well as the citizens of Niagara County, with jobs and job creation," Chris Johnston, president of the World Trade Center, said in an interview Thursday. He joined federal, university and business leaders in announcing the grant at a news conference in the World Trade Center's offices in Buffalo.
The procurement center will employ two full-time and two part-time employees and should be open for business by the end of this year, Johnston said.
There are 97 procurement centers nationwide -- including those in Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties -- and they serve to make sure that a broader group of small businesses has the opportunity to bid on contracts with the Defense Department and GSA.
The procurement centers will help those agencies comply with the rules that require a certain percentage of federal contracts go to women-, veteran- and minority-owned businesses, Johnston said.
The procurement centers are meant to serve communities that are deemed a "distressed area" -- a Defense Department designation based on U.S. Census data -- and officials used this term in their application for the procurement-center grant to describe Niagara County.
The county has more than 3,600 businesses that employ fewer than 500 workers.
The center's employees will work with small businesses to make sure they are aware of federal procurement opportunities; offer one-on-one training to help them comply with the rules and regulations that govern the government procurement process; and organize bigger events that provide networking opportunities with major government contractors and with federal procurement officers.
The procurement center will help small businesses in Niagara County win government contracts themselves or win work as a subcontractor on a larger government contract -- "to get a piece of the pie," Johnston said.
The World Trade Center's foundation, the Buffalo Niagara International Trade Foundation, applied for the grant in June and received the $299,955 award this month.
Johnston gave credit to Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Hamburg, for lobbying the Defense Department on behalf of the foundation's application. The procurement-center program is run by the Defense Logistics Agency.
The foundation received a one-year grant to fund the Niagara County procurement center, but the grant can be extended for a year or two, Johnston said.
The World Trade Center is donating resources including office equipment and some staff time to the procurement center and Niagara University is donating space on its campus for the center's offices.
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