New Arizona website allows small firms to ‘date’ online

Small businesses can't take each other out for a romantic dinner or a movie. But they can do some serious online dating.

A new Arizona-focused website that officially debuted Tuesday will allow small businesses to locate and contact one another, with the intent of finding services, selling products, sharing best practices and more.

Individuals, nonprofits and large businesses also can conduct research and network through www.ConnectBien.com, but small businesses are the ones most likely to benefit, including those striving to do more across the borders with Mexico or Canada. The website is presented in English, Spanish and French.

"It's a way to connect small and medium businesses, which are the backbone of the Arizona economy," said Michael LeVault, mayor of Youngtown and chair of the Maricopa Association of Governments, which developed and is hosting the website. "It's eHarmony for businesses."

Randy Heiss, executive director of the SouthEastern Arizona Governments Organization or SEAGO in Bisbee, said small businesses are receptive to signing up, including those that aren't yet doing business with Mexico, Canada or other nations.

That's because the website also can link Arizona firms with others within the state or elsewhere around the U.S. "It's like a directory of businesses statewide," Heiss said. "It can be useful for something as local as a crafts show."

Businesses in Arizona, Mexico and Canada that create profiles are listed on a geographic map. Companies located in other states and nations also can use the website and submit profiles, but their locations won't be shown on the map.

Businesses, nonprofits and individuals also can search the website without creating a profile. The service is free for all users, and e-mail communications among users aren't tracked by MAG, said Anubhav Bagley, the organization's information-services manager. Businesses can include their profiles even if they don't disclose all information such as revenue numbers, he added.

The site also features other information that small businesses might find handy, such as financial resources and government agencies capable of assisting in various ways.

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