'Interior Alaska Industry Day' strengthens relations between small businesses, Wainwright & Eielson

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Small business owners had the rare chance to meet face-to-face with contracting officers from Ft. Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base at Wednesday's 'Interior Alaska Industry Day' in Fairbanks. The event was coordinated by the Small Business Administration, the Alaska Procurement Technical Assistance Center, Eielson's 354th Contracting Squadron, and Ft. Wainwright's 715th Contracting Team.

With the F-35's arrival approaching, military personnel are working to forge relationships with businesses as Eielson continues to grow. There were over 100 participants at the Interior Alaska Industry day all vying for a piece of these federal contracts. Close to half of those participating were remote from Anchorage, while the Fairbanks location reached capacity. Scott Swingle, from the Small Business Administration, says there are big opportunities for businesses here in the Interior.

"There's upwards of a couple billion dollars in federal contracting here being spent in the interior in the next several months. This event today is kind of an overview of the upcoming several months, what's coming up, what's on the radar," said Swingle said.

Swingle says these are federal dollars, meaning companies across the country are competing for these contracts. They are not guaranteed to Alaskans.

"It's no guarantee, but we want to do everything possible to let these local business owners know, so they can compete, and hopefully get some of these awards," he said.

The focus is on the big boom of construction related to F-35's at Eielson, but there are upcoming contracts at Ft. Wainwright and other surrounding bases as well.

"I'm just hoping to get our name out there, and let everybody know how user friendly we are, just to get registered in the SAM, that way they can come through us, and we can help come together as a community to support contracting requirements and help Fairbanks grow overall," said Contracting Management Officer at Ft. Wainwright CPT. Joshua Clelland.

Contracting officers from Eielson were there to answer any questions participants might have.

Contracting Officer at Eielson Air Force Base Lt. Alan Snyder said, "It's critical now more than ever to be ahead of the market, to get a feel for the market, and if we can assist in any way possible, be friendly with small businesses, get them acclimated to contracting procedures, the process itself."

One small business owner, Bruce Radway, said he has been interested in getting federal contracts and that this event allowed him to speak directly to military contracting officers.

"Without an opportunity like this, it's trying to get your foot in the door on either Eielson or Ft. Wainwright, and as a small business owner, we have other things to do also, so this is kind of, I don't know if I'd call it a clearing house, but a chance to get a lot of face time in a very short amount of time," Radway said.

Local business owners hope to use these connections and their Alaskan expertise to compete with businesses from around the country for a piece of the billions of dollars that are headed to the interior.