HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Rusty Miller and David Bugh traveled from LaBelle, Mo., on Wednesday morning to attend the second annual Tri-State Procurement and Economic Development Conference at Hannibal-LaGrange University.
Their company, Prairieland FS, a full-service agricultural and energy supplier, is interested in contracting with the government for business.
"We came to update ourselves on business in the area, and it's education for us to learn how to bid with government contracts," Bugh said as he and his business partner waited for a new breakout session to start.
The pair were two of 163 participants who traveled from Missouri, Illinois and Iowa to attend the conference. Thirty-three vendors, including the National Park Service, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Defense Logistics Agency, set up booths to meet potential small-business clients, many of which were owned by women, minorities or veterans.
"It's all about networking. Vendors are meeting new clients, and clients are meeting vendors," said Chris Shoemaker, a business development specialist with the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Center. "So far, it's been successful this morning."
Cathy LeSure, director of national accounts at Missouri's Emed Medical Co., a pharmaceutical products distributor, acted as both a vendor and conference participant.
"We came here to learn more about the Veterans Administration just to broaden our scope in the services we provide and get our name out there," she said. "There's been a handful of people here who want to know what we supply, and we're networking with other vendors."
The medical supply company is minority-owned and has a partnership with a company that is owned by a disabled veteran.
Although LeSure describes her experience manning the booth as a "win," she wished she could have attended more conference breakout sessions.
"Takeaways are important at conferences. I always try to take away three points," she said. "I only have two takeaways so far."
Iowa-based IT company ePATHUSA is a business certified to work with the Department of Homeland Security, and it sought other government entities to partner with at the conference.
"Everybody here has something different to offer," said Gilbert Nettleton, ePATHUSA regional account manager.
There were 12 breakout sessions that participants could attend. Topics included international trade, fraud protection and subcontracting.
"Every level of government has a process, and attendees come to learn about them," said session presenter Bill Noyes, a procurement agent with Missouri Department of Transportation's Northeast District. "As a presenter, the sessions give us a chance to tell people how to do business with us. It's all about sharing the opportunities to do business with us and benefit the local economy."
Miller and Bugh attended Noyes' session.
"Business is business, whether with the government or not. It opens the doors to sell products," Miller said. "We don't like waiting on the phone to find out the answers to our questions. This conference is our phone call."