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Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
October 05, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Doing business with DoD discussed during final day of ‘Business Opportunities and Technical Conference’

A record crowd of 600 attendees came to Knoxville for the three-day event that concluded on Thursday.

If you have ever wanted to do business with one or more of the branches of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), you should have been in the audience October 5 for the final day of the Energy Technology and Environmental Business Association‘s (ETEBA) annual “Business Opportunities and Technical Conference.”

Now in its 24th year,  the three-day event at the Knoxville Convention Center attracted a record attendance of 600 people from across the country for ETEBA’s annual golf tournament and two days of programming such as the panel discussion on knowing about and being prepared to respond to DoD opportunities.

The conference wrapped up later in the day with two panels titled “SmALL Business Thursday” – one focused on the eastern part of the country and the other on the western area – and an update on Department of Energy (DOE) procurement plans in the environmental management area.

I doubt that any of the speakers – and probably few in the room other than Jutta Bangs – knew of my connection to a program now known as the Tennessee APEX Accelerator. She’s a Counselor with APEX. Nearly three decades ago during career one at the University of Tennessee (UT), I tried several times to decline an offer of funding to launch what was then known at the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC).

I finally relented, in no small part because a U.S. Senator wanted us to accept the funding, and to say I was wrong about my initial reluctance would be such an understatement. Operated since 1986 by UT’s Center for Industrial Services, the impact has been phenomenal. The program has provided free assistance on more than 25,000 contract awards since CY2000 that have brought more than $9.4 billion in contracts to companies in the Volunteer State.

During yesterday’s session on opportunities to do business with DoD, several of the panelists talked about the importance of connecting to their state’s APEX Accelerator and leveraging its knowledge to gain a business advantage. The Tennessee APEX Accelerator is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with DoD.

Kimberly Buehler, Director of the U.S. Army’s Office of Small Business Programs, pre-recorded a video to lead off the discussion. Noting that small businesses are frequently providing the innovations that the soldiers need, she described five new initiatives that are designed to incentivize prime contractors to work with small businesses. They include: (1) Catalyst Program; (2) Project VISTA; (3) IP (Intellectual Property) Call of Experts; (4) R&D Marketplace; and (5) a recognition incentive program for primes.

Buehler also emphasized the importance of Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs as well as DoD’s Mentor-Protégé program.

The other three panelists for the DoD-focused session came from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) – one from headquarters in Washington, DC and the others from the Savannah and Nashville District Offices, respectively. Eulanda Scott-Shingleton, Deputy for Small Business Programs in the Nashville District, reiterated the importance of working with the local APEX Accelerator.

“Talk to your local APEX,” she said. “They have all the resources you need.”

Prior to the working with DoD panel, Ron Pierce, Director of DOE’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, kicked off the morning with a presentation about his organization.

“We are there to advocate for you,” he told attendees, explaining that his office had no procurement or contracting responsibilities. With that acknowledgement, he also urged those seeking to do business with DOE or another federal agency to “network, network, network.”

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