600 get lessons in contracting at Fort Detrick
Originally published November 01, 2008
By Ed Waters Jr.
About 600 entrepreneurs and small business owners turned out Friday to learn how they might get contracts with companies and agencies at Fort Detrick.
Representatives from agencies, financial sources, business incubators and military organizations discussed how to enter the process of seeking business with Uncle Sam.
The program, SMARTPROC 08, was coordinated through the office of Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-6th.
In one session, which drew about 50 attendees, Bryan Patchan, executive officer of the Frederick County Builders Association, moderated a panel of guests who handle construction of buildings and residences at military bases.
Patchan said the Army Corps of Engineers has set a standard equal to the silver level of the Leadership in Energy Efficiency Design program.
"You can build to those specifications other ways, but it is usually just as convenient to follow LEED and get certified," he said.
Like any government contract, Patchan said, a potential bidder has to be checked out ahead of time to ensure the company can handle the project and there has no legal or other problems connected to the firm.
Another session brought representatives from business incubators in the region together to discuss how they could help start-up firms.
"Getting into an incubator is no golden key or a pass, but it does open doors in Maryland," said Larry Brown, president of Sensics.
His firm started at an incubator in Baltimore, which has led to a successful business.
Mike Dailey, executive director of the Frederick Innovative Technology Center Inc., said entrepreneurs are the "engine that drives economic and social development throughout the world. You might start out with a small business that one day becomes a Microsoft."
Money is always a key issue for any new business.
"I've never met a company that did not need money coming to the incubator," Dailey said.
Chris Marschner, director of Hagerstown's incubator, said his goal is to keep businesses in Washington County.
He said human resources is paramount for a company.
"A business needs to be sure it has enough people to handle the job when it goes for a government contract," he said.
A lot of entrepreneurs who go through an incubator find the graduation a traumatic experience. The firm no longer has the low rent, full support and other benefits of an incubator when it ventures into the real world.
Joseph Hoffman, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a professor at Frostburg State University, said the program there is a bit different.
Entrepreneurs, while getting similar support in some areas, must work with the college, using interns or becoming involved in educational programs. He noted that Allegany County was once a prosperous area with large manufacturers and coal mine revenues.
Today the emphasis is on high-tech careers for students, though Cumberland has become a city recognized for its efforts in arts and tourism.
"Twenty percent of the 1,000 graduates each year at FSU at in high-tech fields," Hoffman said.
Allegany and Garrett counties are in "Hub Zones," which give preference to federal contracts, said Lydia Reiser of the Garrett Information Enterprise Center. A Hub Zone is an area the federal government views as an underutilized business district.
The $2 billion National Interagency Biodefense Campus at Fort Detrick will provide ample opportunities for small firms to sell their wares or services.
Mike Jewett of the U.S. Army Garrison, and other speakers, used illustrations to show the ongoing construction of the biodefense center and a new building for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Detrick.
Patricia Nelson, subcontracts manager for Battelle National Biodefense Institute, said the bioforensics focus of the center could have helped with analysis of evidentiary material for biocrime and bioterroism.
"It would have been used to study the anthrax case at Detrick," she said.
The institute, which targets 23 percent of its contracts to small and disadvantaged businesses, provides a twice-yearly assessment to the president on the bioterroism threat.
November 2, 2008