On June 5, my staff and I were delighted to host USAID’s 5th Annual Small Business Conference at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C. Over 200 small business representatives had the unique opportunity to hear insightful presentations from our Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah, Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), SBA Associate Administrator John Shoraka, and USAID senior officials. It was an incredible time to celebrate the success of USAID in expanding our engagement of U.S.-based small businesses and to have in-depth dialogue on how small businesses may continue to thrive in our changing environment.

The energy at the conference was electric. What I witnessed was a reaffirmation of our commitment and renewed focus on the importance of small businesses for the continued growth of our economy and for their important contribution to our core development objectives. There was also a collective focus on USAID’s Implementation and Procurement Reform (IPR) initiative and the fact that IPR is not only about working with host country systems and developing local capacity, but also about expanding our partner base to include the increased use of U.S.-based small businesses.

Achieving strong cooperation between USAID and the small business community has been a long and sometimes arduous path. Historically, we have not done well in leveraging the talents and expertise of small business partners to achieve our goals. However, in recent years, we have increased our awards to small businesses by 50% and for the first time in many years, exceeded our overall small business goals in FY 2011. We’re also improving our accomplishments at the Mission level. For example, in FY 2011, the El Salvador Mission awarded 26% of its acquisition dollar obligations to U.S.-based small businesses while increasing local capacity development; and the Haiti Mission awarded 20% of its acquisition dollar obligations to U.S.-based 8(a) certified small businesses.

We recognize that there is so much more to be done to further enhance our relationship with the small business community. Through continued dialogue, I believe that we can improve the quality of development programs, bring new thought and innovation to the Agency, and improve the efficiency of how we carry out our mission.

For more information about how your small business can work with USAID, visit our Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization and Minority Resource Center.