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Press release from Business Wire

Victory in Procurement (VIP) Program Present Small Businesses with More Opportunities to Win Government Contracts in 2012

<p class='bwalignc'> <i>American Express OPEN's VIP Program Presents Free Events and Mentorship Opportunities to Help Entrepreneurs Build their Businesses</i> </p>

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Victory in Procurement (VIP) Program Present Small Businesses with More Opportunities to Win Government Contracts in 201212:23 EDT Wednesday, May 09, 2012 NEW YORK (Business Wire) -- American Express OPEN, the small business division of the financial services company, today announced the expansion of its annual Victory in Procurement (VIP) program, a national initiative to help small businesses at every level of contract readiness gain insight and build relationships that help secure government contracts. For 2012, the VIP program has added partnerships with local Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) and the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) to deliver curricula and workshops to help American small businesses get on the path to winning government contracts. According to OPEN's survey released in December 2011, “Trends in Federal Contracting for Small Businesses,” small business contractors spent an average of $103,827 in time and resources seeking federal contracting opportunities in 2010, up 21 percent from 2009. Despite the increase in investment by small firms, federal government contract spending is flat. In 2011, federal government contract spending amounted to just over $535 billion in fiscal year 2011, down slightly from $537.7 billion the previous year, and down from a high of nearly $542 billion in FY2008.1 “Small businesses are working harder for government contracting opportunities than in previous years,” said Alex Ytuarte, Senior Manager, Customer Advocacy of American Express OPEN. “To help them save time and money seeking government contracts, our Victory in Procurement initiative has added new programs and partners so business owners can get the connections and resources to forge ahead.” The 2012 VIP Program elements include: Public-Private Partnerships: Collaborating with local Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC), which are backed by Cooperative agreements between the Department of Defense and state/local entities, the VIP program will roll out “Marketing to the Government” workshops across the country in 2012. The first workshop took place in Chicago, Illinois on May 3 with the Women's Business Development Center, where roughly 50 small business owners learned about best practices on ways to market and successfully pitch their business to government buyers. Upcoming “Marketing to the Government” events include: May 16 in Atlanta, GA with the Contracting Education Academy at Georgia TechMay 30 in San Diego, CA with the San Diego Contracting Opportunity Center More events will be added throughout the year. The VIP program has also joined forces with the New York City Department of Small Business Services to create NYC Teaming – a joint initiative designed to educate business owners on how to create well-orchestrated matches with other businesses and how to market to the government as well as other firms. Upcoming NYC Teaming events include: Marketing Skills Workshop – May 22 in New York, NYBusiness Matching Event – June 13 in New York, NY “Business owners who team up with other small businesses to bid on contracts see the greatest results,” said Ytuarte. “Our research has found that business owners who engage in teaming win 50 percent more federal contracts than active contractors overall.” Victory in Procurement Events: Similar to 2010 and 2011, the VIP program will continue hosting events across the country. In 2012, for the first time, events will feature one-on-one meetings between government buyers and large prime contractors and small business owners. The first matchmaking event took place in Dallas, Texas on April 25, where nearly 300 small business owners met with 32 procurement officials and prime contractors. At upcoming VIP events, attendees will also get access to a full day of interactive workshops on government contracting topics, networking opportunities and keynote speeches by government officials and industry experts. Upcoming events include: May 9 in Miami, FLJune 15 in Washington, D.C.August 2 in Boston, MA Business owners can register for free at www.vipgovtcontracting.com. Mentorship Opportunities: In addition to live events, small contractors have an opportunity to take part in the annual VIP mentorship program, which consists of 12 hours of free intimate communications and guidance with a government contracting expert. Participants will be educated on a host of topics, including the GSA schedule, business certifications, teaming arrangements and the importance of networking. Since 2009, OPEN has mentored twelve small business owners looking to grow their business through government contracting. For more information, visit www.openforum.com/governmentcontracting/resources/mentor. Another way for business owners to tap experts and receive guidance is through the American Express OPEN Victory in Procurement group on LinkedIn– an interactive community of business owners, procurement specialists and government officials. Members can access timely discussions, current contracting opportunities and potential teaming partners. Give Me 5program for Women-Owned Small Businesses: Business owners also have free access to biweekly educational webinars as part of Give Me 5, a national program named after the 5% federal contracting goal for women-owned businesses. Created by American Express OPEN and Women Impacting public Policy in 2008, the program supported the passing of the Women's Procurement Rule – which aims to expand federal contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses and went into effect in February 2011. Along with the one hour webinars, Give Me 5 hosts live events to help women entrepreneurs access and win government contracts. To learn more, visit www.GiveMe5.com. About American Express OPEN American Express OPEN is the leading payment card issuer for small businesses in the United States and supports business owners with products and services to help them run and grow their businesses. This includes business charge and credit cards that deliver purchasing power, flexibility, rewards, savings on business services from an expanded lineup of partners and online tools and services designed to help improve profitability. Learn more at www.OPEN.com and connect with us at openforum.com and twitter.com/openforum. American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at www.americanexpress.com and connect with us on www.facebook.com/americanexpress, www.twitter.com/americanexpress and www.youtube.com/americanexpress. 1 See usaspending.gov for additional information. FY2011 spending figure is as of January 2012 and may change as new agency data become available. National Contact:American Express OPENScott Krugman, 212-640-3244Director of Public Affairsscott.b.krugman@aexp.comorM Booth & AssociatesMoon Kim; for American Express OPEN212-539-3285moonk@mbooth.com