With the growth of the Internet, it is a natural tool for island businesses

Everyday I check online at www.islandbusinesslink.com to see what activity has happened since I spent two weeks in Guam introducing the new networking site as an Island Fellow for the U.S. Department of the Interior. So far, I have not been disappointed. There are now 780 members registered on the site.

The link was developed by the DOI to connect business owners in the Freely Associated States and U.S. territories to off-island partners looking to invest in businesses in the islands. The site builds on the DOI’s successful “Secretary’s Conference on Business Opportunities in the Islands,” but unlike the conference, Island Business Link is available year round, is free and is accessible without travel.

An exciting new feature on Island Business Link is a special section devoted exclusively to the posting of government and military procurement opportunities throughout the U.S. insular areas. Within the last few weeks, the U.S. Navy, Air Force and the Department of the Interior have generated postings. Beyond federal opportunities, procurement opportunities from island governments should also be posted on the site soon.

There are many benefits that can be extracted from the features of Island Business Link. Local and federal government agencies will be able to solicit bids from a wider range of potential vendors, which will improve the competitiveness of bids and increase the transparency of the procurement process. Agencies will also be able to advise businesses on best practices for contracting with the government. Local businesses are able to search an easy-to-use database of opportunities and advertise their services through member profiles.

This site is much more than yellow pages. It provides two major advantages over a mere Internet business listing site. It allows business owners to describe their opportunities and put them right in the investor’s line of sight on our opportunities list. However, because it is free, people sometimes underestimate the power of the networking link.

That could explain why there are fewer opportunities posted on the site than there are registered Island Members. The business opportunity list is designed to introduce business ideas that are ripe for partnerships and investment. Partner Members appreciate the convenience and enjoy searching those listings. Many Island Members need to take the next step and post their opportunities in order to be seen on the list.

In fact, the secret to the Island Business Link’s success is that its Partner list is primarily drawn from past attendees of the DOI’s Annual Conference on Business Opportunities in the Islands who traveled on Business Opportunities Missions to the islands. The next conference will be held in Honolulu from April 6 to 8, 2009, and more information can be found at www.islandbusinessopportunities.com.

Island Business Link is being rolled out to interested partners worldwide. Additionally, the DOI is targeting new companies and industries that would be interested in opportunities in the islands. If you have a specific business or partner you would like to see listed, please e-mail us at [email protected] and we will contact them.

The Department of the Interior is working to improve Island Business Link and welcomes your feedback and suggestions. For more information, go to www.islandbusinesslink.com.

– Matthew Garcia, studying for his master’s of business administration at the Harvard Business School was in Guam for two weeks from June 18 to July 7.