06/16/04 — Steps taken to insure money spent by Seymour Johnson AFB stays in Wayne

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Steps taken to insure money spent by Seymour Johnson AFB stays in Wayne

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on June 16, 2004 1:59 PM

Steps are being taken to help ensure that more money spent by Seymour Johnson Air Force Base personnel stays in Wayne County.

Around 300 base personnel met face-to-face Tuesday with 43 company representatives hoping to learn more about how to do business with the military. The Small Business Vendor Fair was held at Wayne Community College and was co-sponsored by Seymour Johnson, the college's small business center and the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce.

Last year, the base had $57.1 million eligible for small businesses, and only $33.8 million was awarded. An even smaller portion, $13.2 million, was spent in Wayne County.

Lalie Cobb-Kornegay, associate director of the small business center, said the goal was to get people who have purchasing power on base to meet with companies that produce what they need. Business people had the opportunity to meet with Seymour Johnson buyers, discuss products and services one-on-one, find out how to win bids in Wayne County and gain knowledge of how to sell to both Seymour Johnson and Pope Air Force bases.

Pat Harrell, owner of House of Banners, Flags and Flagpoles in Goldsboro, has been in business 12 years and in the past did not know the best person to contact at Seymour Johnson about interest in her product. She spent several hours at the fair networking with base personnel and asking questions.

She said the event was helpful and a good forum for dialogue. One important thing she learned is how all businesses must be "Central Contractor Registered" to do business with the base.

"Hopefully this will be keeping funds within the county," added Ms. Harrell.

Donna Hester with P1 Promotions in Wayne County has done business with the base for six years but still met several new people on base.

"We've had a lot of great leads," she said. "We wanted the contact today, which is what we've achieved."

The company deals with anything that can have a logo placed on it, which includes emblems for the military. She said that when trying to secure business with the base, her company first puts together a package of items and sets up a time to meet with the personnel either on or off base. They then get the price quotes and discuss them with the buyer.

The fair was a time for them to find out what the buyer's specific needs were so they could get samples and catalogs together. They said the base may have several people buying, but there is sometimes only one person who makes the final decision.

Many people attended one or all of the three seminars, held twice during the event. They dealt with how to do business with Seymour Johnson, an overview of federal contracting programs and about a new networking tool, called the Virtual Incubator Platform for eastern North Carolina. It was previously called TeamNC and was developed by the N.C. Global TransPark Authority to help businesses in the region capture contracts with the state's military bases.

Airmen 1st Class Ashley Cushman with the 4th Contracting Squadron at Seymour Johnson provided information at the seminar on dealing with the base. She helped explain what commodities they purchase, how to begin the process of securing contracts, where to look for solicitations and when bids are due.

There were also representatives from the Small Business Administration who provided information on the basics of how government buys and about federal contracting programs including HubZones, Small Business Set-Asides and Federal Mentor-Protege Programs.

The vendor fair had been in the planning stages for a few months and there are plans to make it at least an annual event.