ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. Aca,!" More than 450 business and economic development representatives from across the country gathered Dec. 1-2 for the annual command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) Advanced Planning Briefing for Industry and Small Business Conference at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

This was the first time the event was held on the post since the C4ISR Materiel Enterprise relocated to Maryland, and it inaugurated the new 54,000 square-foot Mission Training Facility on post.

The APBI is an opportunity for all businesses to find out about the major contracting opportunities that are currently being projected for the next five years, according to Edward Elgart, director of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) Contracting Center. The C4ISR team briefed approximately $27 billion in potential contracts for fiscal years 2011-15.

The two-day event was aimed at raising awareness of the business opportunities available within the C4ISR Materiel Enterprise in a forum where potential requirements are openly shared with industry and future partnerships are formed to ensure support to the Warfighter is done effectively and efficiently.

Aca,!A"As weAca,!a,,cre rebuilding here at APG, weAca,!a,,cre counting on industry to augment our efforts with staff as well as ideas on business process improvements, and other areas of innovation. There will be a need for flexibility and an opportunity for growth. Together, we will succeed,Aca,!A? said Maj. Gen. Randolph P. Strong, CECOM commander.

C4ISR enterprise senior leaders took part in a detailed panel discussion about upcoming requirements and needs of their respective organizations. Briefing presentations included the objectives for the available contracts; as well as the contract type; estimated contract values; milestones; technical and contracting points of contact and solicitation numbers.

Aca,!A"WeAca,!a,,cre constantly looking for new technology, especially in the C4ISR business, which is what we support,Aca,!A? said Elgart. Aca,!A"ItAca,!a,,cs really important to be on the cutting-edge at all times so we can give our Soldiers the best capabilities so they can stay safe and alive, and thatAca,!a,,cs what is most important.Aca,!A?

Support to small businesses was one focus of the events.

Aca,!A"As of November 1st, there were 22,000 actions and $13.2 billion for all U.S. obligations from the CECOM Contracting Center for fiscal year 2010,Aca,!A? said Strong. Aca,!A"We awarded $2.8 billion, or 21 percent, of those eligible obligations to small businesses.Aca,!A?

One small business, Manufacturing Techniques Inc., or MTEQ, reaped the benefits of such an event.

Two years ago MTEQ attended the C4ISR small business conference in 2008 in New Jersey. Today, the women-owned, HUBZone small business was one of three awardees for the Quick Reaction Engineering for Warfighter Sensors, or QREWS, contract valued at up to $245 million.

After the that conference, Aca,!A"Because we (MTEQ representatives) had the connection with the small business office and were able to do the advanced planning, we were able to become a successful awardee,Aca,!A? said Clara M. Schuster, MTEQ director of contracts.

MTEQ representatives followed the requirement for 18 months before the actual solicitation came out for bid, according to Schuster. Aca,!A"You really have to follow these things closely and be connected to the customer. Also, networking is very key. For many of these solicitations you have to have a team, especially with small businesses,Aca,!A? she said.

One small business owner, Peter J. Martin, president of AmeriPack, said events like these allow small businesses to gain exposure to opportunities that larger companies would typically dominate.

Aca,!A"We want a level playing field, said Martin. Aca,!A"Small businesses want a chance to compete and participate in the government contracting process.Aca,!A? He said small businesses can, and have, saved the government money in the past.

Aca,!A"WeAca,!a,,cre not talkers, we are doers,Aca,!A? he said. He referenced one contract specifically where his small business out-bid a product $92.60 per unit, rather than at $330 per unit, that a larger company bid.

Guest speaker Judy Bradt, founder and principal of Summit Insight, LLC, shared her words of advice to those interested in conducting business with the government.

Aca,!A"The most important reason to come out to an event like this (APBI/Small Business Conference) is that you focus or go broke,Aca,!A? said Bradt. Aca,!A"The information that is available at an APBI, about what programs are being mounted; what are the priorities; whatAca,!a,,cs the budget; and who are the people who are making the decisions and defining the requirements; thatAca,!a,,cs all handed to you.Aca,!A?

Strong closed his remarks by reminding industry to engage, inquire and network as the business community learns more about C4ISR and the opportunities it brings. Aca,!A"APG is becoming a beacon of transformation for the Army, the C4ISR community and this geographical region. This is the gateway for your engagement in C4ISR life-cycle management,Aca,!A? he emphasized.

All briefings of potential contracting opportunities will be available on the eventsAca,!a,,c registration website at http://www.apgmwr.com/apbisbc.html.