The Aviation and Missile Command put up some big numbers in fiscal year 2016 when it came to small business.

AMCOM and its enterprise partners surpassed its small business goals in all five socio-economic categories that are important to the Army Materiel Command, the Army and the Department of Defense. AMCOM's enterprise partners include the program executive offices for Aviation, and Missiles and Space; Redstone Arsenal base operations; Letterkenny Army Depot, Pennsylvania; Corpus Christi Army Depot, Texas; and the Aviation Development Directorate and the Aviation Applied Technology Directorate, both at Fort Eustis, Va.

"Everyone is paying attention because small business is big business with the Army Materiel Command and with the Army," said Donna Ragucci, director of AMCOM's Office of Small Business Programs.

"AMCOM is a major subordinate command of AMC. Because AMCOM obligates the most money across the AMC enterprise, if AMCOM doesn't meet its small business goals then AMC doesn't meet its goals. This year, we blew it out of the park. We are looking real favorable to big Army."

Of the contracts awarded by the AMCOM enterprise in fiscal year 2016, small business goals were surpassed in these five socio-economic categories:
• Small Business -- Surpassed goal of 11 percent, coming in at 13.60 percent.
• Small Disadvantaged Business -- Surpassed goal of 5 percent, coming in at 6.06 percent.
• HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zone) -- Surpassed goal of .05 percent, coming in
at .12 percent.
• Woman Owned Small Business -- Surpassed goal of 1 percent, coming in at 1.45 percent.
• Service Disabled, Veteran Owned Small Business -- Surpassed goal of .60 percent, coming in at .69 percent.

What does that mean for small business? It means that of the $13.4 billion in contract awards obligated by AMCOM in fiscal year 2016, $1.77 billion went to small business, Ragucci said.

"AMCOM is actually helping small businesses," Ragucci said. "Awarding contracts to small businesses helps to make sure our economy keeps thriving because small business drives our economy, whether they are mom-and-pop shops or they are doing advance technology for the Army.

"Small business benefits from AMCOM contracts and, in turn, we get to see what small business can do for AMCOM. It's amazing what our small businesses bring to AMCOM."

Small businesses must perform at least 50 percent of the work on a small business set aside contract, which gives them the opportunity to grow their business, build additional capabilities and increase employment.

"They have to have strong capabilities to meet AMCOM requirements," Ragucci said. "They could offer advanced technology, new ways to beat obsolescence, or new ideas for our missile and aviation systems."

Even though AMCOM has exceeded its small business goals, the work of its small business office continues in a dynamic business climate where small businesses are continually adding capabilities, growing in employment numbers and establishing themselves as defense contractors.

"AMCOM's Small Business Office meets regularly with the contracting offices and project offices to discuss contracting opportunities for small business. We do early market research to see if small businesses are capable to do the work required by a contract and, if they are, the contract becomes a small business set aside," Ragucci said.

"This office also looks for opportunities for capable small businesses to be subcontractors on a larger contract."

It's hard to attribute the increase in small business contracts to any one reason, but Ragucci said AMCOM's small business office has worked to meet internal goals that she believes are part of the success story.

"We do a lot of outreach to make sure small businesses have the evidence we need to see that shows they are capable of meeting AMCOM requirements," she said. "We provide a lot of information to small businesses that are eager to do business with AMCOM.

"A lot of it has to do with educating small business about the opportunities to do business with AMCOM and how to find those opportunities. We are always telling small business that if they are interested in doing any work with the Army or AMCOM then they have to go to the FedBizOpps website to find the requirement and to answer any request for information. If they don't, AMCOM contracting and program offices don't know if they are capable."

Outreach activities include participating in small business matchmaking events where federal government agencies are set up in a Round Robin environment with small business representatives getting five minutes to visit with each agency representative to share their capabilities. In the past year, Ragucci and her employees have met with more than 550 small businesses, and communicated by email or telephone with another 500 small businesses.

"It's not just small businesses in the Huntsville area. We are talking to small business from places like Virginia, California and Texas. We're talking to small business throughout the world that have capabilities that AMCOM can use.

"Many of these small businesses will make a business decision to put a footprint here. They may come to the area because of AMCOM, but then they will see what all Redstone has to offer from the Missile Defense Agency and Space and Missile Defense Command to the FBI and ATF. Some have set up facilities so they are able to provide services on our weapon systems."

Ragucci's office has also established a small business database in the past year that includes information on each small business contact. That information is shared with contracting and program management officers who are searching for small business capabilities. There are more than 150 small businesses in the AMCOM database, and that number is increasing daily.

"Those small businesses have 99 percent of the capabilities AMCOM needs," Ragucci said.

After AMCOM's Advanced Planning Briefing for Industry in March 2016, four new small businesses received prime contracts from AMCOM while another 25 small businesses became AMCOM subcontractors.

Ragucci also said the increase may have been the result of a renewed commitment within the program management offices to contract with small businesses. The PEO for Missiles and Space contracted nearly 20 percent of all actions in fiscal year 2016 to small business, totaling almost $1 billion in contract value. The PEO for Aviation, which in years past contracted two to three percent of actions to small business, increased its small business contracts in fiscal year 2016 to nearly 7 percent, representing more than $500 million in contract value.

"We are meeting with the project offices in the PEOs and the contracting representatives and we are letting them know what can be set aside for small business," Ragucci said. "We are telling them they have partners in small business who can meet mission readiness and sustainment goals, and a majority of actions for services. The PEOs are making a concerted effort to get more contracts to small businesses."

Lastly, AMCOM's steps to realign the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, and Army Contracting Command-Redstone under Unified Action have also influenced small business goals.

"I think Unified Action was critical to our success," Ragucci said. "When we were separate, we were doing okay. But now with everyone working together we can't help but surpass our goals."