American Express OPEN ForumAmerican Express ( AXP) is trying to be a major resource for small business owners through its online community, OPEN Forum. The financial services company has particularly looked to be the expert resource when it comes to small-business government contracting. A recent survey commissioned by the company on government contracting found that it took active African-American business owners 1.7 years to win their first federal contract, compared to the 1.3 years it took for the average small business contractors, even though the group is, on average, submitting more bids than small business contractors overall. The effort is paying off, though. While small business contractors saw their overall success rate in prime contracting decline by 8% for the two-year period between 2008 and 2010, as compared to the 2007 to 2009 period, African American contractors' success rate in prime contracting remained stable, the March survey found. Jennefer Witter, owner of The Boreland Group, a public relations firm, praised her recent experience with learning more about government contracting through Amex OPEN. She was recently certified as a minority and women-owned businesses to increase her chances of winning government contracts. Once she was certified, Witter says she attended a free seminar sponsored by Amex where she obtained "a huge amount of information on bettering my chances in gaining federal contracts as a woman and minority owned business." She says she learned about the Amex group on LinkedIn. -- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York. To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com. To follow Laurie Kulikowski on Twitter, go to: http://twitter.com/#!/LKulikowski >To submit a news tip, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.