Marine Corps Logistics Command Meets Mission with Small Businesses

From the 1 Oct 2017 Albany Herald

MCLB-ALBANY — When small businesses are able to stay afloat, it is an economic win for a community. The federal government recognizes that, which is why the military is expected to do a certain level of work with small businesses.

Marine Corps Logistics Command has a Small Business Office that specifically helps to coordinate those opportunities and make sure small businesses are counseled on the ins and outs of working with the Marine Corps.

LOGCOM has spent more than $40 million with small businesses during the current fiscal year. The SBO partners with other organizations to conduct outreach and training for small businesses, including a “How to Do Business with the Federal Government” training program.

“We are in existence to aid, assist, counsel and recruit for the interest of the small businesses,” SBO Director Hattie Mosely said.

The office was established in the military 75 years ago during the height of World War II when it was determined that small businesses did not have the economy of scale to participate in the war effort. The SBO office was initially meant to operate during wartime but was eventually deemed necessary to maintain during peacetime.

The SBO in its modern form came to be in 1978 and now has the mission of making sure the congressional mandate of doing 23 percent of federal acquisition dollars with small business is met.

“We are here to ensure that happens,” Mosely said. “We make sure small businesses have any opportunity to participate with the acquisition process. (We work with) any small business with products or services they would like to sell to the government, the Marine Corps in particular.”

LOGCOM has oversight over Marine Depot Maintenance Command, which has the mission of operating a depot that makes certain the equipment Marines use on the field is mission-ready. This offers many contract opportunities for small businesses that want to contribute.

Not every business knows how go about the sometimes difficult task of getting connected to a military installation, which is where the training and outreach piece comes in.

“We do training, recruit and outreach, so (businesses) can have a better understanding of how to do business with the federal government,” Mosely said.

LOGCOM Executive Deputy David Clifton said outreach has involved reaching out to small business owners directly, and that the SBO strives for every opportunity to meet the 23 percent mark.

“(Mosely) has helped to make sure we hit that target every year,” he said. “We want to be good members of the community.

“It is a way for us to help the business owners in local areas to succeed. If they talk to Hattie, they can overcome those barriers. (The SBO) can help get your foot in the door.”

Businesses must go through a registration process in order to work with the federal government, which they often do not know about until they are approached by the SBO office with a job opportunity they are unable to take. SBO officials encourage business owners to undergo the registration process just in case. In the event a business is not registered, a purchase card can only be justified if the cost is $5,000 or less.

“You never know when an opportunity (will come up),” Mosely said.

LOGCOM, headquartered at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, is considered another avenue for growing economic opportunities in the Albany area. Jobs can range from moving boxes to maintenance and IT positions.

A certain amount of dollars are expected to go toward businesses owned by women or disabled veterans. The overall Department of Defense mandate largely depends on the specific mission of a command.

“That is how the Department of the Navy assigns the goals,” Mosely said.

The effort is focused on the Albany area, but that is not always the case. One recent opportunity, for instance, involved an accounting firm in Columbus.

An overall summary of projects is laid out, and officials pinpoint what can be set aside for small business. The mission of the SBO is to give small businesses every opportunity to participate, because there is recognition that every large business was once a good small business.

“Wherever we can, we try to make that (job) a small business set-aside,” Clifton said. “It has to do with the nature and scope of the work.”

If a small business does not get the job, the SBO counsels the business to keep trying — and to get input from the office on what it might take to be more successful next time.

“They can find out why they were not as competitive,” Clifton said. “Getting that feedback can be helpful.”

The advice Mosely gives is based on the same words of wisdom she once got. She suggests building a “GPA” — or goal, plan, action.”

“Detail the goal and explanation of what the action will be,” she said. “This gives them a map of how they can proceed. Do your research. Stay current.

“We encourage small businesses to think global.”

The task does not necessarily have to be global in scope. Many small businesses come in as subcontractors for a larger business.

“(That is) a teaching and partnering opportunity,” Mosely said. “We don’t see enough of these contractors teaching and partnering, and that is a good way to get their foot in the door.”

In addition to giving small businesses a chance to keep their doors open, the SBO’s mission works by securing some of the jobs to support Marines that those in uniform are not able to do themselves. The office also brings skill sets to the table that are not practical to keep on a permanent basis.

“It helps us get our work done,” Clifton said.

In offering the goods and services Marines need, small businesses can also bring about resources that set up the Corps for a decade or two into the future.

“When they do a good job, that can really carry on,” Clifton said.

The challenges the SBO face are budget-related. While those issues are problematic, there is a chance to move forward.

“It gets harder every year, (but) there is still opportunity out there,” Clifton said.