The U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville's Base Operations Program sponsored a virtual industry day Feb. 2 providing information and assistance to small businesses interested in submitting proposals for performing work for the Army Reserve’s 88th Regional Support Command.
With support from the Colorado Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), six representatives from Huntsville Center set up shop at the El Paso County, Colorado, Regional Municipal Center and met with vendor representatives not only in person, but also virtually through Internet broadcasting capabilities.
The Center’s representatives explained customer requirements, bid processes and answered questions in real time for more than 150 vendor representatives spread across 32 other PTAC sites in 19 states attended the event virtually.
“This event was an absolutely phenomenal achievement for Huntsville Center and USACE as forerunners in promoting industry awareness and interaction, all while maximizing opportunities for increased competition,” Rebecca Goodsell, the Center’s Small Business Office chief said.
Laura Lokey-Flippo, Base Operations Program manager, said the idea for the virtual event came from the realization that the 88th RSC provides services and base operations support to more than 55,000 Army Reserve Soldiers, families and civilian employees dispersed across states in the northern U.S. from the Ohio River to the Pacific Ocean.
She said many of the firms interested in supporting the 88th RSC’s janitorial, grounds maintenance and waste removal services are small businesses in areas with close proximity to 88th RSC facilities.
“We knew there were challenges associated with this acquisition because of the geographic range: it spans 19 states and five time zones,” Lokey-Flippo said. “We started discussing ideas about how to reach such a broad area, and still encourage teaming opportunities because it’s so important potential vendors have networking capabilities.”
With a challenge of reaching an audience over a large area, Karen Baker, Huntsville Center Small Business Office, reached out to Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) throughout the region and led the planning and coordination of the event.
“PTACs are a local resource available at no or nominal cost, that can provide assistance to business firms in marketing products and services to the federal, state and local governments,” Baker said. “There are PTAC’s in every state. I made contact with the Colorado PTAC—they were geographically in the middle of the area the 88th RSC covers— and I spoke with Dennis Casey, Colorado PTAC Executive Director, and explained what we wanted to achieve. I asked if they were willing to collaborate and work with other PTACS in the region and he responded very favorably. It was a real team effort by everyone involved.”
Goodsell said this is the first time Huntsville Center has sponsored an industry day ‘virtually,’ and streaming the event live allowed smaller firms to participate that otherwise may have been excluded due to prohibitive expenses associated with travel to Huntsville. She said by making the event virtual it saved taxpayers money too.
“We realized that reaching out to vendors over such a large geographical area was going to be expensive and we certainly wanted to keep costs down for the government and interested small businesses,” Goodsell said.
“If we took the industry day to a single location in each of the 19 states, we would have had to rent facilities there and incurred personnel travel costs and if we’d held the event here in Huntsville, we still would have had costs associated with renting a facility and all the support that goes with an industry day. We also understood many of the smaller vendors would likely not attend due to travel expenses too.”
Goodsell said participant survey results are positive in support for the first virtual industry day and attendees say the event provided them with the right information they need to move forward with their business plans.
“I really enjoyed the format and was happy that it was made available across PTACs,” said Christine Chase of Chase Consultants, Kansas City. “I think it was a convenient approach and I'm fully supportive of future virtual events."