Event recap: Inaugural State Suppliers Expo
By Christa Helfrey
On Oct. 19, state leaders invited companies to the State Suppliers Expo, an inaugural private-public networking event held at the Oklahoma City Convention Center. At the expo, organizations across Oklahoma were able to establish relationships with public leaders and learn how to partner with the State of Oklahoma on upcoming projects and initiatives.
The state relies on contracts with private companies to complete diverse projects like building roads and bridges, maintaining state offices, planning events and securing the state’s data network. Working with the state can bring opportunities for businesses to invest in their communities and grow their companies through partnering with a $22.9 billion-dollar entity. In the past, companies of all sizes experienced challenges navigating the cumbersome process to become state suppliers. Further, it was difficult to learn about each agency’s needs and know who to contact with questions about those needs.
Seeing room for improvement, Chief Operating Officer Steven Harpe and his team at the Office of Management and Enterprise Services hosted the State Suppliers Expo to bridge communication gaps and streamline the way companies do business with the state. By collaborating with executive cabinet secretaries, the team was able to connect state leaders, state agencies and private companies under one roof, and sign up 62 new state suppliers in a single day, with another 21 starting the process.
“We want to be more accessible, transparent,” Harpe said. “We want to do more business with Oklahoma companies than we ever have.”
An estimated 550 individuals and 250 private companies attended the expo, which featured a Procurement Learning Center, booths for each cabinet area and six speakers throughout the day. As the team that oversees the state’s procurement process, OMES Central Purchasing managed the Procurement Learning Center, offering information about statewide contracts and tutorials on how to sign up online as a state supplier. OMES Construction and Properties was also on hand to assist in the education and onboard process.
The surrounding 15 booths showcased each cabinet secretary’s top current and upcoming projects in need of services from private companies. Highlighted projects included everything from expanding the state’s fiber network and developing accessible virtual reality for state park visitors, to facility renovations and eastern red cedar tree removal.
“It’s interesting to find out how almost every cabinet has different needs that a little bit of everybody can fit into,” said one attendee.
The event speakers included COO Harpe – who also serves as deputy secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration, Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, Secretary of Human Services Justin Brown, Gov. Kevin Stitt, Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur and Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz. Many cabinet secretaries were also available at their booths to speak with expo attendees, build relationships and find suppliers who could meet their needs.
“Getting to physically meet the key players in the state was very helpful,” another attendee said. “We look forward to attending next year and working with the state!”
For suppliers already signed up to do business with the state, the expo offered an open door to agencies and projects they may not have interacted with before, but whose needs aligned with their capabilities.
“It takes that private sector engagement and partnership to make things happen,” said Secretary Gatz. “And I’m here to tell you that state government can’t do anything without the support of the private sector.”
The first State Suppliers Expo sought to break down silos and spark more collaboration between state government and Oklahoma companies. Building these private-public partnerships is a commitment to innovation and getting stuff done with Oklahomans, for Oklahomans.
For more information on how you can sign up to become a state supplier, check out this flyer on doing business with the State of Oklahoma. If you have any further questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.