The Times West Virginian

May 5, 2013

Morgantown conference designed to help small businesses prosper

By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — The Teaming to Win Conference is designed to help small businesses in West Virginia grow and find success.

The event will take place at the West Virginia University Erickson Alumni Center in Morgantown on Tuesday, May 28, and Wednesday, May 29. Deana Keener, president of the I-79 Development Council, and Stephanie Pethtel, program coordinator of the Affiliate Services Group of the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation in Fairmont, are the conference co-directors this year.

Teaming to Win, a nonprofit group, got started through an initiative of former Congressman Alan B. Mollohan to promote small businesses.

Pethtel said this conference, in its 23rd year, was created as a way to bring small businesses together to work with each other to pursue contracts and team up with federal anchors. It allows participants to network and talk about the capabilities of their companies.

This event has been held at different locations throughout West Virginia in the past, and typically draws about 300 attendees from across the state. People always look forward to the conference, she said.

“Each year, it just seems like it gets bigger and bigger,” Pethtel said. “It’s such a great atmosphere.”

The Erickson Alumni Center, located at the heart of Morgantown and featuring a lot of breakout rooms, should be a perfect venue for the conference this year, she said.

Pethtel explained that the conference focuses on hitting each target audience, from company presidents and human resources directors to program managers and other business professionals. Teaming to Win sent

out a survey to figure out what attendees wanted to see, and the event has been tailored according to what was important to them.

“We definitely have a packed agenda this year,” she said.

People can attend learning tracks that are about timely and relevant issues in the changing landscape of opportunities, Pethtel said. All of these segments will be beneficial for people to learn what’s going on in the area and hear forecasts for the future, and they can utilize that information for their own business.

“We always try to do things that are educational and responsive to small businesses in the region to help them be prepared and be more successful,” said Anne Barth, executive director of TechConnect West Virginia and president of the board of directors of Teaming to Win.

For instance, one learning track is on the Affordable Care Act from the standpoint of both employers and employees. Many small businesses have questions about these changes, and Teaming to Win wants to have information ready to share so attendees can make informed decisions, she said.

Barth said another learning track will concentrate on 3D printing, which many experts are predicting will be the third industrial revolution. This panel discussion will focus on how this technology is altering the way that goods are manufactured in all sectors, and how it will transform the economy in the state and nation.

Pethtel said Teaming to Win is excited to bring in Morris Morrison, a Fairmont native and business development speaker, who will share his personal experiences on how to achieve success.

Other speakers will include WVU President James Clements; West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant; Dr. Anthony Cugini, director of the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown; Gregory Blaney, director of the NASA IV&V Facility in Fairmont; and U.S. Congressman David McKinley.

In addition, the event planners are working with the U.S. Small Business Administration to hold the West Virginia Small Business Awards dinner on May 29 as part of the conference. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin will give the keynote address.

Diane Lewis, president and CEO of Action Facilities Management Inc. in Morgantown, will receive her award for being named the 2013 West Virginia Small Business Person of the Year, and other state award winners will be honored. Lewis is also on the board of directors of Teaming to Win.

In addition, the event will showcase the corporate sponsors as well as federal agencies, which will be exhibiting their services, Pethtel said.

Barth said participants will have the chance to win prizes, such as iPads and other cool devices, during giveaways.

“It’s a good value for the money,” she said of the conference, “and I encourage people to consider coming and joining us for this year’s exciting agenda.”

Keener urged businesses in government contracting that are interested in growth opportunities and learning about what other companies are doing to attend. She also said agencies that have contract opportunities available should come in order to make other entities aware of what they have to offer.

This event has become sort of a reunion where people can network with organizations that are doing similar work as they are, but also allows participants to meet new people whom they can team with in new ways, Keener said.

Plus, the speakers offer unique perspectives that can help attendees become better business people, she said.

“It has been an extreme pleasure for I-79 Development Council to be a part of this event,” Keener said. “We’ve learned a lot. It fulfills a lot of our goals and our mission. It is perfectly aligned with what we like to see in the corridor, companies working together to strengthen each other and the overall economy.”

The cost to attend the conference is $150 per person, or $65 to only go to the SBA awards ceremony. To register or for more information, visit teamingtowin.org. Federal agencies can also still sign up for an exhibit booth.

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.