Reversing the usual pattern, nearly 20 large companies in Cleveland this spring began soliciting small business vendors for supplies and services. Instead of waiting for the small companies to come to them with their wares, the big firms joined forces in a "Make It in Cleveland" campaign and found a potential of $100 million in contracts that could be let to local small companies.
Gould Inc., Ocean Systems Division, a large defense contractor that instituted its own local small business procurement program a year ago, teamed up with the Cleveland mayor's office to sponsor a day of contract discussions between companies such as B. F. Goodrich, TRW, and Reliance Electric and more than 95 small businesses.
"We wanted to bring small vendors face to face with large contractors," explains Dennis Franta, materials manager at Gould OSD. Franta says the company's small business program is saving Gould an average of 27% on purchases of several million dollars, and that the company expects to subcontract $14 million per year to local small firms.
Michael LeHere, materials director at Gould OSD, says the company initiated its small business program to reduce costs and stimulate the local economy, as well as to comply with federal regulations that require prime contractors to attempt to subcontract to small firms. LeHere's department sent out brochures to potential local subcontractors, listing the items it needed from suppliers and technical specifications for them. "Now we have a complete institutionalization of this process," LeHere says. "It's part of our normal routine."
The mayor's office and the Greater Cleveland Growth Association also recently established a Greater Cleveland Defense Business program designed to help small businesses contract directly with the Department of Defense and to subcontract with other defense businesses.