The Super Bowl will bring plenty of fans, tourists and money to New Jersey as the kickoff date nears, but for small-business owners, more important than that are the contracting opportunities the big game promises.
"For a lot of our people this is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Caryn Starr-Gates, a regional president of the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners. "I don't think we're going to see the Super Bowl here again for a while."
NJAWBO leaders rarely miss a chance to urge members to boost their contracting credentials, and the expected economic windfall of the big game is helping the group drive the point home.
"We just really want to make sure that we provide the preparation for our members to best position themselves for this," Starr-Gates said.
Executives with the 2014 Super Bowl host committee hope to maximize those opportunities in the coming months through Business Connect, an NFL program aimed at helping minority- and woman-owned businesses win contracts for services tied to the big game. Committee executives say the game generates more than 100 functions requiring more than 20,000 credentialed workers.
That means the list of procurement needs is long, and the committee will spend the next several months preparing firms for the bidding process, connecting them with buyers and compiling a database of contractors for Super Bowl-related services.
Hundreds of would-be vendors turned out last week to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, in Newark, where the host committee held the second of three Business Connect workshops. Organizers said purchasing entities are plentiful beyond the NFL and the host committee, but league and committee executives also sought to temper expectations among attendees.
Frank Supovitz, the NFL's senior vice president for events, told business owners that while "some will get contracts, many will not," cautioning that a Super Bowl assignment "cannot make your annual budget in one day."
The bid process can start as early as June, according to the host committee. Organizers said last week that contracts typically are awarded in September and October, but services can be procured as late as game day, which will be Feb. 2.
In the meantime, local business leaders and trade groups have put their constituents on notice about the opportunities. Chip Hallock, president and CEO of the Newark Regional Business Partnership, said competition will be fierce, given the regional nature of the game, but the event is estimated to produce a $550 million economic impact in the region, so "even if you just get a little bit of that, it's meaningful."
"That's an awful lot of competition for the business that they are going to let out," Hallock said. "By the same token … if you want to be in the game and try to get the business, you have to be playing in this arena, so to speak."
The host committee has identified more than 50 areas in which services may be needed — ranging from audio visual to waste removal. But the list is far from complete; Elsa Lopez-Toglia, the group's director of special community programs, said services like snow removal could be added for next year's cold-weather game.
Whatever the need, buyers will be looking for reliable services, established companies and good pricing, said Alfred F. Kelly Jr., the host committee's president and CEO.
"In any situation, business is never guaranteed," Kelly said. "Business is earned, and I think what we're doing is creating a platform to enable minority- and women-owned businesses to have a bit of an advantaged shot at trying to earn some of that business."
Tamara A. Fleming, who cofounded the Newark-based communications firm Femworks LLC, hopes past experience will lead to a similar opportunity for the Super Bowl, she said. When the Prudential Center hosted the NCAA men's basketball east regional games in 2011, the league hired the firm to organize concerts and cultural events aimed at keeping visitors in the Brick City instead of going to New York, "which is the natural instinct."
"There was a desire to keep people here within the city to learn more about Newark … and basically just generate some revenue for the restaurant owners and small-business owners here," Fleming said. She expected Super Bowl planning to spawn similar "conversations about how can we engage the audience that we'll have."
Registered firms will be entered into a central procurement directory, which will be launched by June and accessible to purchasers like the league, the host committee and partners, according to a program guide. Business Connect will host another workshop for interested vendors in June, though that event is by invitation only.
And for the many business owners who don't win contracts, Supovitz said the benefits derived from networking, educational and business development opportunities "probably far outweigh the actual cash dollars that may come into your business."
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