04/30/07 — Businesses can learn how to sell to government at trade show

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Businesses can learn how to sell to government at trade show

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on April 30, 2007 1:48 PM

Local businesses will have a chance to learn how they can get military contracts when the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Purchase Cardholder Trade Show is held June 12.

For years, red tape prevented many small business owners from trying to do business with the base, or one of the other military installations in eastern North Carolina.

But the federal government has streamlined the process, said Cindy Marrette, coordinator of the Military Business Center at Wayne Community College.

Registration to do business with the federal government can now be completed within 72 hours, she said, and the government is working to make the process even faster.

"The guidelines for contracts change every year, and that is something local businesses can take advantage of," she said.

The show will be held at the Goldsboro Country Club from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.

The trade show is not open to the public. Only those registered to do business with the government are allowed at the event, where they can meet the base's purchase cardholders and others who work in procurement. To obtain registration, a business owner needs only to contact the Military Business Center at WCC at 735-5151, ext. 306.

The trade show, which is sponsored by the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Small Business Center and Military Business Center of Wayne Community College and the Exchange Club of Goldsboro, will feature representatives from the Procurement Technical Assistance Center, General Services Administration, Small Business Association and Military Business Center.

Local business owners can also learn about the benefits of registering with www.matchforce.org through the Military Business Center. Mrs. Marrette said the online resource assists with government contracts and smaller purchase opportunities, but also matching possible employees with companies and businesses for possible partnerships.

Several of the seminars will show local business owners how to register for federal contracts. And each one, including government purchase cardholders from Seymour Johnson, can help local businesses succeed because there is plenty of money to be had with doing business with the federal government, Mrs. Marrette said.

Seymour Johnson has more than 500 government purchase cardholders that leave the base everyday to make purchases, which totaled about $54 million last year. Government purchase cardholders can spend up to $2,500 each time they swipe their cards. Mrs. Marrette, who retired from Seymour Johnson and has spent the past 13 years as a contracting officer focusing in federal procurement, said that's a figure that could boost local business sales -- if they take advantage.

"You'd be surprised by the type of things the base needs," she said.

Seymour Johnson has been known to buy everything from office products to live chickens for testing for bird flu, Mrs. Marrette said.

In the past three months, local government purchase cardholders from Seymour Johnson spent about $2.77 million, but only about $1.33 million was spent in Wayne County.

"We have the potential to get all of that money in Wayne County. We just need to educate our local businesses," Mrs. Marrette said.

This year, the federal government will be looking to businesses in Wayne County and abroad to purchase environmentally preferable products and other services that conserve natural resources and lessen pollution.

Stipulations in some federal laws, such as the Clean Air Act, Energy Policy Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, has made government officials start looking at the benefits of green procurement.

The government is looking for products made from recovered materials and non-ozone depleting substances. Anything that is biological-based, energy- and water-efficient or focuses on alternative fuels is also a priority.

The hope is that purchases will help create recycling markets, save energy, conserve resources, reduce pollution and reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil, which is a goal President Bush mentioned in his State of the Union address.

Local businesses also have the opportunity to sub-contract with other companies working in North Carolina. The construction initiative through the state's Military Business Centers provides a contact list of prime contractors who are working on military installations in the state and need sub-contractors.

And there is still plenty of space left at the 2007 Government Purchase Cardholders Trade Show. As of last week, the trade show was about half full of vendors.

"Small and other local businesses need to jump at the opportunity to get a booth," said Patty Graham, membership and marketing director with the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce.

Local business owners unsure whether their goods or services would be of interest to the military, can call the college's Military Business Center as well.

For more information, call the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce at 734-2234 or go by the chamber office at 308 N. William St.