By Miles BrownSeptember 24, 2019
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. - With more than 28 million small businesses across the country looking for a competitive edge, the U.S. Army is reaching out to help companies navigate the process and successfully compete for government contracts.
Small businesses provide the U.S. Army with goods and services essential to maintaining readiness. Small businesses employ more than 50 percent of the country's private-sector workforce and create 60 to 80 percent of all new jobs annually, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. So, partnerships between the Army and small businesses are a win-win situation for both parties and the nation's economy at large.
Across the Army, command small business teams work diligently to help the small business entrepreneurs navigate the federal government's sometimes complex contracting system. In some ways, the small business offices act as matchmakers between the command and small businesses.
The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command has just such a team. Six people with one mission - enhancing Army readiness by matching small business capabilities with the command's requirements with the goal of awarding Army contracts for needed goods and services.
The AMCOM Office of Small Business Programs is a great starting place for small business owners looking for contract opportunities, according to Debra Wood, the OSBP assistant director. Last year, AMCOM obligated $13.7 billion in contract awards, of which $1.9 billion was awarded to small businesses through more than 6,500 contract actions.
"We meet with small businesses to learn about their capabilities and see if their capabilities match AMCOM's requirements," said Wood. "When we find a match, we put that small business in touch with the appropriate contracting officers so the company can see all the contract opportunities available."
One of the misnomers in the business community is that the small business program offices actually award the contracts. That is not the case, according to Wood.
"We don't actually award the contracts. We match capabilities to requirements. We provide training to the AMCOM contracting workforce and the requesting office. We conduct market research. But it is the contracting officer who awards the contract."
OSBP professionals connect with small businesses at a number of avenues locally and across the nation to find those matches. The goal is to create networking opportunities for both the business owners and the small business program professionals, according to Wood.
"We are always looking for small business events that provide us the chance to meet with businesses that represent all of the socio-economic segments. We make sure every small business is given the opportunity to compete for contracts," said Wood. "We attend 'matchmaking' events to discuss capabilities and make sure the company is looking for contract opportunities that are the right fit for them," Wood said. "If their capabilities don't match with AMCOM's needs, we can refer the business to another small business office on Redstone Arsenal that is a better fit."
It is all about creating a winning partnership between small businesses and the federal government, according to Christopher Evans, the director of AMCOM's OSBP.
"Our team is looking to create win-win situations," said Evans. "We leverage large events like the Department of Defense Small Business Training Week held in different cities each year. We also attend regional and local small-business forums to ensure we are making our team available to a broad audience in the small business market."
Steve Reed, the director of mentor-protégée programs for an engineering services company headquartered in Huntsville, Alabama, sees the value in this partnership.
"[OSBP is] extremely helpful in terms of helping us understand the landscape of the Army and how our services and technology can fit with AMCOM [requirements]," said Reed. "They are very good at helping communicate who the prime contractor is and key points of contact within the organization. This helps us reach out to the government customers to learn more about their [requirements].
"They are also good at providing us with resources and updates on direct competitive contracts. So they are giving us a forecast of upcoming opportunities."
According to Reed, the 2019 Advance Planning Briefings to Industry hosted by AMCOM were extremely helpful to his company.
"That was one of the best APBIs I have ever attended," Reed said. "Chris [and his staff] had prepared the speakers to talk about business opportunities within their organization. That helps industry and also helps our protégées see the opportunities to do business with the government. The insights from different organizations on the Arsenal about other ways to do business was also very valuable."
The federal government sets contract award goals for different types of small businesses each year. The aim is to award contracts to small and disadvantaged businesses like those owned by women or disabled veterans, according to Wood.
"If we are falling short in one of our goal areas, we will look for forums where we can make contact with that specific small business group," Wood said. "We are fortunate that a lot of companies have heard about the opportunities in Huntsville and they are very interested is doing business with AMCOM."
The process to compete for contracts is a little more straight forward for businesses that have competed or been awarded federal contracts in the past. For those small businesses looking to enter into competition for contract awards, there is more to it than just meeting with an OSBP specialist. A small business specialist will refer that company to the procurement technical assistance center. The PTACs help small businesses meet all the requirements needed to compete for federal contracts, said Wood.
"They provide classes and one-on-one training to get small businesses ready to present their capabilities to [AMCOM]."
The market research is a critical step in making sure AMCOM is taking the right approach to filling their contract needs, according to Evans.
"We conduct market research that drives our acquisition strategies," said Evans. "Sometimes the market research will dictate a full and open competition for both large and small businesses and sometimes it will support AMCOM setting aside some requirements just for small businesses. Market research is the key to successful acquisition strategies."
Small businesses across the country help form the backbone supporting Soldiers and their families and making sure the Army remains ready to fight, according to Evans.
"Small businesses are an essential part of our integrated team comprised of Soldiers, federal civilians, and business owners all united by a common cause - fulfilling the mission to protect our country," Evans said. "Small businesses bring special capabilities with a strong sense of commitment and innovation. They are vital to the success of our nation and underpin our economy. The AMCOM small business staff, along with all Army small business professionals, are dedicated to increasing small business prime and subcontracting opportunities across the Army."
For more information about AMCOM small business opportunities, contact the Office of Small Business Programs via email at email@example.com.