CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is seeking to increase the number of its minority vendor partners by hosting a free recruitment event for qualified veteran and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

The recruitment breakfast will be held on Friday, Oct. 15, 2004, from 9 to 11 a.m. EST at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo Conference Center in downtown Chattanooga, Tenn.

Veteran business owners in Tennessee and neighboring states are invited to attend this free event and learn more about opportunities to work with BlueCross and other organizations. Both current BlueCross vendors and new business vendor prospects are encouraged to participate.

“BlueCross is serious about its commitment to build and strengthen relationships with minority and small business vendors,” said Ron Harris, manager of diversity for BlueCross. “This event is part of the ongoing outreach effort to diversify our company and all its operations.”

The U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy reports an underutilization of veteran and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses across the country, especially at the federal level.

An estimated 3 million veterans and 220,000 service-disabled veterans own businesses throughout the United States, according to the 1996 Economic Census.

Currently, BlueCross has 76 vendors with veteran classification in its database; three have disabled classification.

“Our hope is to expand the number of veteran business owners that we work with and help them secure more business with BlueCross,” Harris said. “As with all our 800 plus small-business and minority-owned vendors, our goal is to develop mutually beneficial relationships that ultimately benefit our health plan members.”

Other Chattanooga-area companies participating in the veteran recruitment breakfast include the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority, and McKee Foods Corporation. For more information on the recruitment breakfast, call Mark Sweatman at 423-535-5846.

About BlueCross

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's mission is to provide its customers and communities with peace of mind through affordable solutions for health and healing, life and living. Founded in 1945, the Chattanooga-based company is focused on reinventing the health plan for its 3 million members in Tennessee and across the country. Through its integrated health management approach, BlueCross provides patient-centric products and services that drive health improvement and positively impact health care quality and value. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. is an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit the company's website at www.bcbst.com.