WCC program offers guide to fed contractors
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 9, 2013 2:30 PM
In addition to preparing students for the workforce, Wayne Community College also has a secret weapon in its arsenal for supporting existing and future local enterprise -- the military business center and small business center.
The North Carolina Military Business Center has been around nearly a decade, first introduced at community colleges located closest to military bases. And while part of its service includes assisting military personnel and family members transitioning into the workforce, the bigger mission is to leverage military and other federal business into this community.
"Our primary focus is to assist North Carolina businesses to identify, bid on and win federal contracts," said Boyce Haywood, the center's coordinator.
Haywood currently works largely with Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and the Postal Service for six counties: Duplin, Greene, Johnston, Lenoir, Wayne and Wilson.
Haywood is retired from the military. He said his goal is to get the word out about the services available through the center.
"I think the worst thing is this gap that we have. We have this large military presence, yet all these other states are coming in and winning (the bids and money)," he said. "Some don't even know about the biddings. We want to get them registered in our database."
One way to jump start the process is through the website matchforce.org, said Diane Ivey, the executive director of the Wayne Business and Industry Center at the college. The site, affiliated with the state agency, matches businesses to government contracts, suppliers and job seekers. Individuals and businesses can register, post and search for available opportunities.
Along with Haywood, another newer hire at the college is Charles Gaylor IV, director of the Small Business Center, which is part of the Wayne Business and Industry Center.
"Every college is charged with housing a small business center," Gaylor said. "We are charged with housing programs to encourage and educate entrepreneurs within the community."
Each of the 58 community colleges in the state feature a similar center, providing one-on-one consulting services, resources and seminars, all free of charge to the patrons.
"We help them learn how to do cash flow, how to do a business plan," Gaylor said. "We help them connect the dots with accounting, with lawyers, with a landlord. We're not consultants. We're counselors."
"That's what they're here for, to help the owners, the small business, the entrepreneurs, to help those that have a great idea -- whether you should incorporate, which license you need, just to guide them through that maze," Mrs. Ivey said.
The process can take the client from the concept stage all the way to marketing a product, Gaylor said.
"A lot of really good products die and never see a shelf because they lack the business component. But a lot of really good business people have sold us a lot of mediocre or bad products.
"It's very important for the person to understand how to take the really good product, manage the supply chain, and hopefully profit from the idea."
In addition to offering advice and directing the person to resources, the small business center also offers a variety of free seminars.
"Last year alone, we put on over 50 events, with over 950 attending," Gaylor said.
Despite the recent economic plunge, there is a renewed emphasis on the importance of small business, Ms. Ivey said.
"The big businesses get the headlines but the small businesses, they're the backbone of the community," she said.
Gaylor said the process can sometimes take time, but that it is rewarding to see someone succeed.
"I started mid-August and in that short amount of time, I have counseled people from idea -- a gift shop, a lawn care company, a consignment company. I have assisted a construction company in merging with another construction company, and both of those were over a million dollars in revenue annually. It's all because of the groundwork that was laid by the past director for putting those clients in the right position," Gaylor said.
"We're doing it. We're getting success. We're getting an elevated tax base for the city and county and we're creating and keeping people in jobs."