By Heidi Sheppard
On a typical INEAP meeting day I might hear a conversation among representatives from the Economic Development Administration (EDA), the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discussing cluster development initiatives and how to work together. In another corner, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Commerce (DOC) are likely to chat about sustainable manufacturing. Dots connect and collaborations spark. This is what transpires at a meeting of the Interagency of Enterprise Assistance Providers or INEAP. This is what can happen when people with the same goals come together.
The INEAP is a network of representatives from federal agencies, non-profits and various associations, united by a shared mission to grow US small and medium-sized businesses. The INEAP meets monthly to learn best practices, leverage areas of expertise and identify collaboration opportunities.
I witnessed two illustrative events at our recent January meeting. The meeting featured a NASA speaker who discussed their Green Engineering efforts and the development of a three day training course. “Wait, we have a course similar to that!” one of the thirty-five people in the room, a representative from EPA, called out. The dots connected and the two agencies scheduled a subsequent phone conversation to discuss how NASA could use the course that EPA had developed instead of reinventing the wheel. During our round robin session, a vital portion of our monthly meetings in which we take turns providing updates on our current initiatives and plans, someone exclaimed simply that “INEAP rocks!” Why do they feel this way? Because through its database of over 600 members, the network can function as a deep and wide pool of information on topics related to federal agency support for small businesses. In this case, an INEAP participant requested information on those who are working with sustainable technologies for automotive companies. It took only 15 minutes for him to receive more than ten replies. A few example responses included EDA’s work in Delaware renovating a former GM plant for an electric hybrid car manufacturer, DOE’s vehicle technology program and NIST’s work on sustainable manufacturing automotive assembly. Now that’s really connecting the dots!
INEAP creates a web of connections in our complicated and interdependent world. These connections, formed by sharing knowledge, can lead to the discovery of opportunities that enable us to leverage each other’s strengths and further a common objective: growing U.S. small and medium sized businesses.
Of course, face to face interaction is not always possible. INEAP has a website where you can read more about the network, upcoming meetings, relevant articles and success stories.
So, I invite you to connect the dots by visiting www.ineap.gov !