03/20/05 — Military Business Center established at WCC

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Military Business Center established at WCC

By Turner Walston
Published in News on March 20, 2005 2:02 AM

Doug Simmons has been director of the Military Business Center at Wayne Community College since November. But he's just getting started.

The North Carolina Military Business Center has established offices at the small business centers, or SBCs, of the four community colleges closest to military bases. In addition, the Military Business Center will network with small business centers at all 58 community colleges.

Simmons was the first person hired as part of the community college affiliation. The program helps the military find local businesses to work with, and makes it easier for businesses to find military contracts that suit them.

"Eastern North Carolina has experienced an economic downturn," Simmons says, referring to the changing tobacco market. "We looked to the military as an asset, and want to keep the procurement dollars local. By doing so, we improve the quality of life for all citizens. The more dollars we can keep, the more opportunities Wayne has."

Simmons' primary objective is to get local businesses to register for free on the MBC's MatchForce website, www.matchforce.org. The site gives businesses an opportunity to "match up" with military contracts that they can fulfill. Simmons says MatchForce positions businesses for opportunities they might not know about otherwise.

"I am the person that begins the process. If a person is interested in doing business with the military, they need to start here," Simmons says from his office at Wayne Community's Center for Business and Industry.

Having worked in Wayne County for over 30 years, Simmons knows the frustrations of the business community. "It's not easy," he says. "The military wants to work with business, and business wants to work with the military. But they haven't figured out how." With the new program and website, Simmons says, it is now much easier to do business with the military.

"I've seen the economy of our area struggle. This is a huge and exciting opportunity for Wayne County businesses."

Since taking office, Simmons has been securing names of companies that have done business with the military in the past or are in a position to do so in the future. He says members of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce are already listed on the site, but may need to update information. Simmons also ensures that businesses have filled out a Central Contract for Registration, making them eligible for military contracts.

He suggests frequently checking the calendar at http://www.ncmbc.us for opportunities for business contracts.

"Since Sept. 11," Simmons says, "access to the base has been limited. This tool will help so that businesses don't need to go out there to get opportunities."

In addition, Simmons says companies should be specific about products and services they offer, so that the system can match them to the right contract. An automatic e-mail is sent to companies or stores that fit the needs of the contract. "If I'm a business owner," Simmons says, "I don't need to know all they buy. I just need to know what I sell."

Simmons says MatchForce can also be a tool for job-seekers. After registering, individuals can post their qualifications on the site and be notified of tailor-made opportunities. Simmons hopes this will help keep transitioning and retired military families in North Carolina. "There's a lot of talent that these people have," he says.

According to Simmons, the North Carolina Military Business Center and MatchForce.org are gearing up for a statewide advertising campaign, and the service is being endorsed by state legislators and United States congressmen.

MatchForce is a tool for the new way of doing business, Simmons says. "The military is going to do business with you by computer, and it can easily be done on MatchForce." He says businesses have to make the effort, however. "They've got to help themselves."