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Small business panel discusses COVID-19 impact, market research

Small business panel held

Jeff Emmons, the director of Small Business Programs for Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., speaks during a small business panel discussion in Newton, Mass., in 2019. Earlier this week, Emmons discussed innovative contract and acquisition strategies with the Hanscom Representatives Association during a virtual meeting. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Jeff Emmons, the director of Small Business Programs here, discussed innovative contract and acquisition strategies for small businesses during a virtual meeting with the Hanscom Representatives Association July 28.

Market research and engaging with industry were central themes of Emmons’ presentation. He also talked about COVID-19 impacts, both for Hanscom employees and local area businesses. Emmons also shared small business performance results for fiscal year 2019 for the Digital and Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks directorates, both headquartered here.

Utilizing draft request for proposals and taking part in industry days are a few of the techniques that acquisition professionals use to engage with industry. Emmons also highlighted the importance of conducting market research.

“An acquisition always starts with market research,” said Emmons. “Once you do that you can put together your contract and acquisition strategy that will lead from good solicitation to a good proposal and then a good contract. But it all starts with quality market research.”

Regarding COVID-19, Emmons said that his office is working to reduce the impact of the pandemic for base contractors and industry partners. The office provided the acquisition directorates and contractors’ offices assistance, through the Small Business Administration, in obtaining affordable personal protective equipment. They also provided information on relief programs, like ones established in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which was passed by Congress in late March. The CARES Act provides direct economic assistance to U.S. small businesses.

Both the Digital and C3I&N directorates have been heavily involved with the CARES Act, Emmons said.  

To close out his discussion, Emmons provided an overview of small business performance results for Digital and C3I&N.  

The goal for Digital was to obligate 13 percent of its contract funding to small businesses in 2019. It far exceeded this goal by obligating over 23 percent, nearly $600 million.

C3I&N also exceeded expectations, which was to obligate at least 16.89 percent of funding to small businesses. The directorate more than hit its mark, obligating nearly 21 percent of its funds for a $294 million total.

Emmons looks to maximize opportunities for small businesses to deliver technology and innovative solutions to meet warfighter needs.

“The Air Force needs innovative, flexible, and efficient small businesses,” he said. “Small business is big business.”

Khanh Nguyen, the Hanscom procurement center representative for the SBA, also spoke. Nguyen works with local area small business owners and assists agencies in meeting prime contracting goals, providing recommendations on subcontracting plans, and conducting counseling and training on acquisition strategies and updates on new regulations.

HRA brings representatives from small, large, and start-up Hanscom area businesses together to encourage collaboration in the acquisition process. More information about the organization can be found at hanscomreps.org.

The next HRA event is scheduled for Aug. 27 at 10 a.m. Col. Michael McGinley, the defense engagement director for the Defense Innovation Unit in Boston, is scheduled to speak.