NAVAIR Small Business Office is Reaching Out to Firms

Original Article: SoMdNews

Emily Harman is working to help small businesses successfully enter the world of government contracting. As associate director of the Naval Air Systems Command Office of Small Business Programs, Harman hopes to get to know industry leaders, find out what their firms have to offer, compare that information with NAVAIR’s needs and create opportunities for those businesses to join the competition for contracts.

It’s work that may be valuable to businesses, as the Pentagon trims spending and competition to land government contractual work is becoming more difficult.

“Understand what we plan on buying, and what we buy,” Harman said recently during a team meeting at Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

“We talk to a lot of companies. But that doesn’t mean it will lead to a contract,” she said. “We try to expand the industrial base.” The key to that is communication.

NAVAIR officials planned an industry day Thursday for government leaders to talk with companies, and give business executives a chance to pitch their strong points.

Harman also said companies should pay attention to the command’s long-range acquisition forecast, which offers clues as to what the Navy plans on purchasing over time, each year.

The idea, from the small business office’s perspective, is to get better at reaching out to companies, and at matching their skills with government requirements, said technical director Shelby Butler. And to do that, the government team is streamlining a database to facilitate match-making.

One area of possibilities is in manufacturing, or “reverse engineering” of sorts, Butler said.

For instance, in cases where larger firms have moved on to bigger projects and no longer are making certain mechanical parts used by Navy programs, small companies might be able to reproduce them.

But getting to the point of doing that kind of work is not always easy for smaller firms, Butler acknowledged. “I used to be a business owner,” he said. “And I can empathize. I really understand what that seat feels like, doing everything you need to do to get your foot in the door.”