06/11/09 — Trade show links local businesses with base

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Trade show links local businesses with base

By Laura Collins
Published in News on June 11, 2009 1:46 PM

Lionel Sutton wants to sell more shoes.

As owner of Sutton Safety Shoes, he's looking to make some contacts within Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce is hoping to help him.

In an effort to close the gap between the business community and the base, the chamber hosted the Seymour Johnson Government Purchase Cardholder Trade Show Wednesday.

"What this does is give the local business community and the regional business community the opportunity to learn more about how they can do business with Seymour Johnson," said Steve Hicks, chamber executive director.

According to the governor's office, North Carolina has more active military personnel than all but two other states but it ranks 38th in Department of Defense prime contract awards.

"We had not been doing a good job of letting people know how you contract with the military, it's a whole different procedure," Hicks said.

The exposition connected procurement/purchase cardholders with area businesses that set up vendor booths at the event. Hicks said about 500 of the 5,000 people on base are cardholders, which authorizes them to use the cards to make purchases for their workplace.

Al Collins was one of more than 40 vendors at the expo. He has been representing MSC Industrial Supply at the event since it began seven years ago. Collins said the event has had a big impact on his company.

"It's created new contacts. Sometimes it's just too much for one person to get to all the decision-makers. Shows like this bring it all to you," he said. "Otherwise I'd be knocking on doors trying to develop relationships."

For more information on how to do business with Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, contact the Wayne Chamber of Commerce at 734-2241.