03/27/06 — Cashing in at Seymour Johnson AFB

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Cashing in at Seymour Johnson AFB

By Turner Walston
Published in News on March 27, 2006 1:49 PM

Expansion of the mission of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base will likely mean more opportunities for local companies and individuals to do business with the military, officials say.

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission announced last year that Seymour Johnson would add planes and personnel, resulting in more needs for goods and services.

Lt. Col. Brad Riddle, commander of the 4th Contracting Squadron at Seymour Johnson, is responsible for finding companies to complete the work or to provide the service called for in each contract authorized by Air Force officials.

"We spend $40-70 million each year just on construction," Riddle said.

Federal law controls how the contracts are awarded. The laws are designed to give small and minority businesses owners a chance to compete.

"In general, the law requires my contracting officers to pursue contract awards with small businesses owned by U.S. citizens who are also a minority, a woman, or a disabled veteran, or to firms located in a Historically Underutilized Business Zone," Riddle said.

Last year, Seymour Johnson exceeded the goals set by the law for contracting.

"Those results are looked upon favorably by Congress with respect to funding future projects," Riddle said.

Riddle said the restrictions can hurt some companies seeking work, but he offered some tips on how companies can best pursue the available contracts, which range from construction work to providing the base commissary with fresh fruit.

"The first step for contractors is to contact the local Small Business Administration Office in Raleigh to see in which industry categories they can be considered as a small business," he said.

The SBA's site at www.sba.gov explains size and revenue standards to qualify as a small business, Riddle said, and shows where the Historically Underutilized Business zones are across the United States.

"Often, contractors are surprised to learn they are a large business in some industry categories, but still qualify as a small business in other categories," Riddle said.

He also suggested businessowners monitor two key Web sites, http://www.selltoairforce.org and http://www.fedbizopps.gov, which list significant projects coming up at Seymour Johnson and other bases, and also note if the projects will be set aside for small businesses or will be open to all contractors.

Even if a large company submits the winning bid on a big contract at the base, smaller companies still have an opportunity to get subcontracts, Riddle said.

"For local firms pursuing subcontracting opportunities, it is common for them to call my squadron to request a list of prime contractors here at Seymour," Riddle said. "In addition, after winning a Seymour Johnson contract, a prime contractor frequently asks my squadron for a list of local firms with certain capabilities."

In those cases, the 4th Contracting Office provides a list of firms with a good past-performance record so the primary contractor can begin market research and the subcontract award process.

"Our goal is to ensure prime contractors consider local firms as subs," Riddle said.

Seymour Johnson is currently managing a $35 million family housing project.

"The prime contractor is from Salt Lake City, but most of the subcontractors are local firms," Riddle said.

For major projects, the prime contractor subcontracts between 75 and 90 percent of its work to local firms, he added.

Some local firms that have obtained work at the base through subcontracts include Keen Plumbing, Best Sand and Gravel, Rose Plumbing, Seegars Fencing, Phoenix Construction and General Heating and Air Conditioning.

Firms that do well as subcontractors on base projects often see more opportunities come their way, Riddle said.

"They get into a network of firms that do good work at Seymour Johnson. The good contractor's name becomes a gold nugget for prime contractors to pursue," he said.

Riddle said firms that want to do business with the government should register online with the Central Contractor Registration at http://www.ccr.gov.

CCR enables Congress to track where public dollars are spent, and provides statistics on the United States' industrial and service base. In addition, CCR serves as a database of contractors, sorted by their capabilities, for government contracting officers to find and pursue for contracts.

Contractors who wish to do business with the government as a prime contractor are required to register. There are other benefits, too.

"It's free advertising for them," Riddle said. "Every contracting officer in the government uses CCR as a first step in conducting market research."