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Helping Mississippi businesses flourish

By By Fredie Carmichael/The Meridian Star
Nov. 19, 2001
Since its inception in 1990, the Mississippi Contract Procurement Center has helped private businesses obtain federal, state and local jobs putting many people to work.
Richard Speights, the center's executive director, said recently that 1,600 businesses across the state and more than 100 in Lauderdale County now receive help from his organization.
Speights said other businesses also could join. The only problem, he said, is that they don't because they aren't aware of what the Mississippi Contract Procurement Center is and does.
Speights met recently with The Meridian Star editorial board to outline how his nonprofit organization can help small businesses win government contracts.
Government contracts
The Mississippi Contract Procurement Center stays in close contact with the 2,000 federal and 1,000 state purchasing offices.
Mississippi law requires governmental bodies to advertise jobs that cost more than $10,000 and are not covered by a state contract already in place.
Speights said those governmental bodies must also send an identical copy of the job proposal to his organization's home office in Biloxi.
At the same time, Speights said, each business member of his organization has a business profile entered into a computer. When a government contract becomes available, the computer matches it with businesses that can handle the job.
Once the computer finds a match, Speights said, they send an e-mail to the businesses regarding the opportunity. He said his organization sends nearly 4,000 notices a month to its members.
Speights said prospective businesses that want to join his organization must complete an application. He said his organization must know what goods and services a company provides.
Center funding
The contract procurement center is funded 45 percent by the federal government and 55 percent from local entities. It has five offices across the state, including one in Meridian that covers 12 counties.
While most regional offices receive funding from local governments, almost all the Meridian office's budget is funded by Meridian Community College. Kemper County provides $500 to the office.
Bill Mabry, director of the Meridian office, said MCC benefits from the center because it creates jobs.
Speights said one of the problems facing the contract procurement center is funding. He said he hopes the state Legislature will vote next year to let all 82 counties fund the center if they wish.
Fredie Carmichael is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3228, or e-mail him at fcarmichael@themeridianstar.com.

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