The U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville has a team with thorough understanding of federal acquisitions, focusing their expertise and advocating for small businesses to compete for more than 5,000 contract actions, or portions of them, that Huntsville Center solicits annually.
In fiscal year 2016, Huntsville Center’s Office of Small Business Program
’s efforts resulted in more than $690 million in direct awards to small businesses. In fiscal year 2017, Huntsville Center has direct awards valued at more than $191 million to small businesses to date with the bulk of awards to be made during the fiscal year’s fourth quarter.
“Small businesses represent 29.6 million companies in the U.S., create 63.3 percent of new jobs, export 34 percent of all U.S. exports, employ more than half of all private sector employees and generate more than half of our Gross Domestic Product,” said Rebecca Goodsell, Huntsville Center’s Office of Small Business Programs chief.
Goodsell and her team of small business specialists, Karen Baker and Nicole Boone, recognize how important small businesses are to America's economic future, and the team is in place to ensure Huntsville Center supports the government’s policy of awarding a fair proportion of contracts to qualified small business.
Goodsell said she and her staff are essentially “business advocates and advisors,” charged with helping small businesses with a variety of needs as well as act as liaison between the Center’s staff and the Small Business Administration.
“Small business is a vital part of the Army Corps of Engineers’ procurement process, and we provide valuable information that helps small businesses
, program managers and contracting professionals identify needs and industry capabilities in support of our many programs,” Goodsell said.
Huntsville Center’s OSBP team is experienced in government contracting—all three on staff are Level III contracting officers—and each performs a variety of functions to include planning, implementing and administering the Center's full range of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization related programs.
“We’re responsible for maintaining an extensive formal and informal outreach effort to counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns in execution of our missions,” Goodsell said.
One of the staples for the OSBP is the annual Small Business Forum that sees more than 300 small business representatives and small business owners to discuss their capabilities with Huntsville Center contracting officials and program managers to learn about upcoming Huntsville Center acquisitions. The 2017 Small Business Forum is set for Oct.18.
The forum is good for small business to not only connect with Huntsville Center representatives, but with each other too as businesses are always looking to partner with each other, Goodsell said.
Throughout the year, Center program and project managers and contracting officers also host “industry days” either in Huntsville or at outlying locations. An “industry day” is set so Center representatives can provide program and project contract overviews and explain steps small businesses can take to submit proposals to provide the services Center contracts require.
“Industry days are the lifeblood of the OSBP,” Boone said. “It’s not just a way for small business to interact with Huntsville Center staff, but also with each other. After they meet with us they can then meet with each other and often they find ways to partner to come up with solutions to fulfill contractual requirements. “
However, the OSBP staff, particularly Baker, began realizing “industry days” can be taxing on small businesses as it’s not always easy for small business owners or representatives to attend as airline flights and hotels can be costly to a small business.
“Also they are taking time to attend, and for many small business owners, time is money,” Baker said.
That aspect of the industry day got Baker thinking, and she soon realized many industry days could be accomplished virtually.
Huntsville Center’s Base Operations Program had a services contract for the 88th Regional Support Command, an Army Reserve command element supporting more than 55,000 Army Reserve Soldiers and civilian employees. Many of the firms interested in supporting the 88th RSC’s services were small businesses in areas with close proximity to 88th RSC facilities. Because the facilities were dispersed across 19 northern-tier states from the Ohio River to the Pacific Ocean, Baker and the BASEOPS program manager and contracting officer began discussing ideas about how to reach such a broad area.
“So we had the concept of hosting a ‘virtual’ industry day for this contract,” Baker said.
“I looked at the map of the area the 88th RSC covers, and Colorado was the central point. We also knew we wanted to involve regional Procurement Technical Assistance Centers that provide assistance to business firms in marketing products and services to the federal, state and local governments. So I called Dennis Casey, Colorado PTAC executive director, explained our situation and he was more than happy to help us.”
On Feb. 2, with assistance from Colorado PTAC and El Paso County, Colorado, visual information staff, Huntsville Center hosted its first virtual industry day, streaming the event live across the internet from the El Paso County, Colorado, Regional Municipal Center. The event was seen by hundreds of small business owners and representatives at PTACs throughout the region.
Casey was so pleased with the event that he submitted the event to the Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers' award program, and the event was named as an Outstanding Project Award for 2017.
The success of the 88th RSC virtual industry day garnered interest from other Huntsville Center program and project managers who began asking the OSBP for assistance with developing more virtual industry day events to draw in small businesses and meet their requirements for contract “set-asides for small business,” a contracting vehicle tool that reserves an acquisition (or parts of an acquisition) exclusively for participation by small business concerns.
Using a web conference service, Center program and project managers can set up industry events for small businesses to learn about a contract, and Baker is usually sitting in on the event to provide news and information for interested small business seeking a contract.
Baker took industry day events to a new level May 4, with the Center’s first Facebook live session for a Medical Facilities Support and Services II contract.
Tonia Thomas, Contracting Directorate contract specialist, participated in the MFSS II virtual industry day and said working with OSBP helps contracting officers remember small business goals and ensure they are in line to use small businesses.
“I always learn something new working with the OSBP, they keep us abreast on small business policy and work side-by-side with us to determine which specific acquisitions should be set-aside for competitive small business awards. Their innovation is key to not only helping us take care of our customers, but also take care of the vendors. They are an invaluable asset to the Center’s acquisition workforce and the programs and projects we support,” Thomas said.