More than 300 small business owners and representatives of small businesses from across the nation converged Thursday for the Engineering and Support Center's 14th annual Small Business Forum at the University of Alabama-Huntsville's University Center Nov. 7.

The event provided an opportunity for business owners and representatives to meet with Huntsville Center program managers, contracting officials and subject matter experts to talk about the center's various programs and upcoming partnering opportunities.

In his address to the audience, Huntsville Center deputy commander Lt. Col. William Burruss expressed the importance of the forum. He also gave an overview of the Huntsville Center mission.

"We want all of you to take with you today some valuable information that will help you begin the contracting process," Burruss said. "The Corps is providing engineering solutions for the nation's engineering challenges. We want to continue to deliver vital engineering solutions, in collaboration with our partners, to secure our nation, energize our economy and reduce risk from disaster. The work you do can help us meet our mission," he said.

Rebecca Vucinaj, Huntsville Center's Small Business Programs Office chief, said the information exchanged at the forum allows participants to get answers to questions they have regarding doing business with the Huntsville Center. Attendees really look forward to attending the event because it gives them an opportunity to mingle and interact one-on-one with Huntsville Center program managers, contracting officers and technical experts.

"The goal of having a forum is to connect with small businesses and make them aware of what contracting opportunities Huntsville Center can offer," Vucinaj said. "We also want to make sure we have the right match when executing upcoming contract acquisitions actions for these programs. It's a great networking opportunity."

An attendee, Jesse Nunn, president of Future Research Corporation in Huntsville, said the forum was very informative. He also said it was very helpful for contractors to have all the Huntsville Center key players there to explain the entire contracting process to them.

"I'm attending the forum because I've been to others and it's very informative," Nunn said. "It keeps small businesses abreast of what is going on across the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It also gives us an idea of how small businesses can contribute to the Corps success and helps small businesses understand the change in regulations. We hope to expand our services and further our experience with USACE. Events like the forum will help make this possible."