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Small business panel talks big innovation

Jeffery Emmons, Small Business Office-Hanscom, from left, Peter Kontakos, Small Business Administration -Massachusetts District Office deputy district director, Charles Wingate, General Services Administration Information Technology Commodity Division branch chief,  Brian Carr, Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks Directorate Innovation director , Stanley Grip, Massachusetts Procurement Technical Assistance Center procurement specialist, and Capt. Amanda Rebhi, Program Executive Office-Digital Innovation director, take questions from the audience during the  Hanscom Small Business Panel in Newton, Mass., March 9. The panel discussed support and opportunities for small and non-traditional businesses looking to provide services to the government. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jerry Saslav)

Jeffery Emmons, Small Business Office-Hanscom, from left, Peter Kontakos, Small Business Administration -Massachusetts District Office deputy district director, Charles Wingate, General Services Administration Information Technology Commodity Division branch chief, Brian Carr, Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks Directorate Innovation director , Stanley Grip, Massachusetts Procurement Technical Assistance Center procurement specialist, and Capt. Amanda Rebhi, Program Executive Office-Digital Innovation director, take questions from the audience during the Hanscom Small Business Panel in Newton, Mass., March 9. The panel discussed support and opportunities for small and non-traditional businesses looking to provide services to the government. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jerry Saslav)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center-Hanscom Small Business Office hosted a panel to discuss support and opportunities for small and non-traditional businesses looking to provide services to the government at the Marriot Hotel in Newton, Massachusetts, March 9.

The innovation directors for Hanscom’s Digital and Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence, and Networks Directorates offered input on their innovation priorities. Other topics focused on the assets and vehicles available for small and non-traditional businesses, including Small Business Administration programs, Procurement Technical Assistance Center support,  the 8(a) Business Development Program,  General Services Administration contract vehicles reserved for small businesses and the Small Business Innovative Research program.  

Throughout the Q&A discussion, panel members agreed that understanding the direction of the specific government organization they want to work with is key for small businesses.

“You have to know the mission and requirements of the organization, so you can pitch that solution to their specific problem,” said Peter Kontakos, Small Business Administration-Massachusetts District Office deputy district director. “Find out what the agency is gearing themselves toward, and then focus on what your company offers to the government.” 

Capt. Amanda Rebhi, Program Executive Office for Digital commander’s action group chief and innovation director, explained that pre-tailored information could go a long way. 

“PEO Digital has a huge portfolio with hundreds of programs,” she said. “If you already have an idea of what you can do for me, then I have a starting point and can move the process forward to our engineers.”

Panel members also noted that the Air Force is changing the way it does business when dealing with acquisitions, and that innovation and developing capabilities in the field are the priorities.

Rebhi said speed and innovation are her PEO’s top priorities.

While there is no cookie-cutter approach for opportunities, panel members said the Air Force is looking for more innovative solutions to fill capability gaps.

If a small business can provide 30 percent of a capability the Air Force does not currently have at all, that can save lives, said Rebhi.

“It’s just about cutting away small slices of large problems,” she said.

Additional panel members included Jeffery Emmons, Hanscom Small Business Office director; Charles Wingate, General Services Administration Information Technology Commodity Division branch chief; Brian Carr, Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks Directorate Innovation director; and Stanley Grip, Massachusetts Procurement Technical Assistance Center procurement specialist.