LAWRENCE – Today Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) hosted a regional procurement conference and business expo with the Merrimack Chamber of Commerce to help small businesses navigate the process of getting federal contracts and to provide disaster recovery information on the heels of the region’s worst flooding in 70 years.

“Our goal is to help small businesses understand the contracting system and cut through the red tape so they can do what they do best – provide top notch goods and services, create jobs, and drive our economy,” said Kerry. “The entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to hard work is inherent in the small business owners throughout Massachusetts and it was an honor to see that spirit first hand here in Lawrence today.”

Kerry also organized a panel with experts from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Small Business Administration to talk about state and federal aid programs designed to help businesses recover and rebuild after a disaster.

“Unfortunately, after the most devastating floods I’ve ever seen in this region, many businesses are struggling to recover, rebuild and stay open,” Kerry said. “We need to get our businesses back in business by getting them grants and low-interest loans quickly. That’s why I’ve called on Governor Romney to work directly with the SBA now to remove uncertainty and delay in getting these businesses the assistance they need.”

This conference offered an opportunity for more than 500 small business owners, contractors and entrepreneurs who attended the conference to meet with more than 60 exhibitors about opportunities to work with their organizations. Exhibitors included procurement, contract and small business development offices from federal, state, and local government, as well as a variety of hospitals, public utilities, colleges and universities, prime contractors and independent franchisers.

“As a small business owner I am grateful to Sen. Kerry for hosting this business conference with the Merrimack Chamber. There are so many opportunities out there for us, but many of us just don't know where to start. In particular, Sen. Kerry's leadership in organizing the business disaster assistance panel comes at a crucial time. It will take us a while to get our communities and businesses back in top shape, so Sen. Kerry’s assistance in getting this information out there so swiftly is very helpful,” said Sal Lupoli, owner of Sal's Restaurant and Riverwalk complex in Lawrence.