ALBANY — Small business representatives from across the country packed into Albany’s Imagination Theater Thursday to learn about the multiple opportunities available for doing business with various NASA and Department of Defense facilities.
Hosted by the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the procurement center at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center, the Space and Military Business Forum brought more than 100 businesses together with representatives from several NASA and DOD installations and contractors in hopes of generating new business relationships.
According to Chamber President Barbara Rivera Holmes, the forum featured presentations from multiple entities, including NASA Headquarters, NASA Shared Space Services Center, John F. Kennedy Space Center, Marshall Space Flight Center, Marine Corps Logistics Command, Moody Air Force Base, Patrick Air Force Base and Robins Air Force Base, all of which do business on a regular basis with small businesses.
“It’s an incredible opportunity for our community to host NASA,” said Holmes. “NASA reached out to us. When you get a phone call from NASA, you answer the phone. They reached out to us because of Albany’s proximity geographically to a large business area and for its proximity to various Department of Defense installations. We have representatives from Camp LeJeune, Moody Air Force Base, Patrick Air Force Base, Marine Corps Logistics Base, and others, all here in the same capacity: How can we do business with small businesses in our region, our state and our country?”
Michael McCarty, the director of procurement for the Kennedy Space Center, concurred, saying Albany is an ideal location for such an event because many NASA facilities and military installations rely heavily on private industry for a variety of different services.
“Most of our work is done by private industry, by contractors,” he said. “And this region is kind of central to NASA Kennedy Space Center, Huntsville, where Marshall Space Flight Center is, and Stennis Space Center, where NASA’s shared services center is in southern Mississippi.
“Kennedy Space Center is a huge installation with all the launch facilities, and people will sometimes think that it’s only engineering or only launch services. But all that infrastructure requires companies as well. We don’t have NASA civil servants that do that, we contract that out.
“It’s not just Kennedy Space Center, it’s all those other installations. There’s a lot of opportunity for businesses in this region to help us.”
McCarty said a good example is Albany’s A. West Enterprise, which in addition to doing contract work for Kennedy Space Center, also served as one of the main sponsors for the Space and Military Forum.
“There’s a company based out of here, A. West Enterprise, (owner) Eddie West, and some of his partners, they already do business with us,” said McCarty. “They set this up, helped sponsor it. We wanted to do it already, so it just pulled the two of us together.”
In addition to the event featuring businesses like A. West Enterprise that already do contract work with NASA, McCarty said the NASA facilities and the different DOD installations also brought some of the larger contractors they do business with, so that those companies can establish relationships with potential subcontractors.
“Us, along with Patrick Air Force Base down in Melbourn, Fla., near us, Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, the Marine Corps Logistics Base here, of course, Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina, we all got together and we brought some of our prime contractors as well, like Boeing, Jacobs, Vencore, KBRwyle, because they do a lot of subcontracting,” McCarty explained. “So we’re all here to kind of talk to this region and talk about how they can do business with us and help us and at the same time we can help them.”
Although the majority of the day featured presentations and question-and-answer sessions with the different entities, the afternoon featured what Holmes called a “matchmaking” session, during which businesses could meet those entities face to face and develop relationships.
“(Attendees) have spent most of the morning learning about the services, but the feedback initially has been, ‘This is really cool,’” Holmes said. “The second half is a prearranged matchmaking session. It’s kind of a one-on-one speed-dating session between the businesses and the NASA space centers and Department of Defense installations.
“(The event) is about being able to provide these opportunities to businesses. We have an innovative business community here, and they provide services in a variety of areas. (We have) very qualified service providers, and being able to match-make them with NASA space centers and with the Department of Defense is really just neat.”
Although he did not say what kind of business was procured by the different entities while participating in the forum, McCarty said he felt confident the event would directly lead to business opportunities.
“It may not necessarily be at Kennedy Space Center, but with all these other federal entities, I don’t know how there couldn’t be,” he said. “If they want to do business with us or one of those, there’s business to be had. Sometimes it’s just hard to get in and figure it out. And that’s why we’re here to help them navigate that.
“I think we brought the right people to generate the interest locally, and they’ve shown up. I hope they take advantage of this, and it looks like they are. We’re all here, all the experts are here, to answer any questions. Companies that have done business with us know some things, but they can still learn. There’s other businesses maybe that haven’t cracked into the federal government. It’s not always easy, but if you can get someone face to face, they can help guide them.”
In addition to connecting businesses with NASA, Holmes added that the event was a great way to showcase Albany and Albany’s businesses because, in addition to the various space and military installations, the forum also drew businesses from across the United States that might not otherwise have come to Albany.
“This is an incredible opportunity for our community to showcase the business services that are available from our businesses here,” she said. “What a day it is. We exceeded what we hoped we would have. It’s just a fantastic turnout.
“When registrations start coming through from as far away as Oregon to come to Albany, Georgia, to come to an event like this, you know that it’s a great thing and it’s a good fit. So we get to welcome people to our community who may not be familiar with our community and also provide these business opportunities. This is a great turnout for the first of its kind in our region, and we’re hopeful to be able to host this on a continued basis.”
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