WorkQuest 30th Annual Products and Services Expo
In September, WorkQuest (formerly TIBH Industries, Inc.) hosted its 30th annual Products and Services Expo in Austin, following the previous evening’s 11th annual Artie Lee Hinds Award dinner. The expo serves to link community rehabilitation programs (CRPs) across Texas with state agencies that use—or may be able to use—their products and services through the WorksWonders Program, which helps connect Texans with disabilities with meaningful employment.
At the expo, representatives from 25 CRPs answered questions and displayed the various products and services they offer to current and potential customers in attendance. Many booths provided samples of their products, which has proven to be a popular way for customers to preview what they can order from the various CRPs.
“I’m glad they hold the expo every year so newer purchasers can come out and see what is being offered,” Kristy Watts, a purchaser in the procurement department at the Texas Department of Public Safety, said. “This is my fourth year at the expo, and I come because I like to meet vendors face-to-face. What’s better than that?”
While many CRPs attend each year, several new CRPs were participating for the first time and were excited to connect with potential new customers. Each new state contract helps a CRP ensure there is enough work for their employees.
“This is our first time at the expo, and we’re hopeful it will generate some new business,” Laura Alvarez, State Use Program manager at Pride Industries, said. “We were just recently certified with WorkQuest and are excited to see how we can support the program.”
Some CRPs presented new products and services that purchasers hadn’t seen before, which helped them gauge interest and learn about what their customers find most valuable. This is one of the most beneficial aspects of the expo for CRPs, according to Debra Martin, program manager at ABG Solutions.
“Seeing what’s new in the consumer’s world is important to help us serve them better,” Martin said.
“I’ve learned a lot through attending the expo this year—even some things about our own products and how people are actually using them,” Billie Jo King, program coordinator at Bluebonnet Trails, said.
Many purchasers who attended the expo were quick to point out how important it is to connect with CRPs while helping to provide adequate jobs for employees with disabilities. Paula Fulsom, administrative assistant in the commissary and trust fund department at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, reflected on the importance of purchasing products and services through the WorksWonders Program, as well as meeting new CRP connections at the expo.
“This opportunity is awesome for purchasers, and it’s so helpful for those with disabilities,” Fulsom said.
The expo also gives customers and CRP representatives the opportunity to meet one another for the first time. Additionally, it allows customers to discuss which products or services they find most helpful, as well as provide input on those they would like to see available in the future.
“The best part about being here is putting everybody’s faces to their names,” Calvin Starrit, purchaser IV at the Texas Workforce Commission, said. “I’ve known my WorkQuest rep for five or six years, but this is the first time I’m getting to meet her in person. It is so exciting!”