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Redoubling efforts to grow Arkansas businesses: Improving Federal contracting opportunities to support warfighters

A group of individuals, both in uniform and in civilian business attire, stand in the grass in front of a large grey C-130H aircraft for a group photo.

The 19th Contracting Squadron in conjunction with the U.S. Small Business Administration Arkansas District Office and the Arkansas Procurement Assistance Center hosted a joint ceremony at the Little Rock Air Force Base University Center to celebrate a new education initiative and key partnership between LRAFB, SBA and APAC July 19, 2018. The education initiative includes training classes where local business owners can learn about how to go about getting a business contract with LRAFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Regina Edwards)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- The Air Force 19th Contracting Squadron, the Arkansas Procurement Assistance Center, and the U.S. Small Business Administration Arkansas District Office recently renewed efforts to build the capacity of businesses within the state to access local federal government contracts and improve support to warfighters.

“One of the very fortunate things Little Rock Air Force Base has is some amazing partnerships with our communities that we are very proud of — and what we’re planning to do by building and doubling on our relationship with the SBA and with Arkansas Procurement Assistance Center is to expand on those partnerships,” said Maj. Casey Walterscheid, 19th Contracting Squadron commander.

This effort will focus on a series of small business workshops that emphasize federal contracting. APAC will conduct the training hosted at the air force base education center to introduce contractors to the requirements of the federal contracting process from bidding to performance.

“This relationship originally started out with the thought of how can we increase the effective capability of our small business supply chains in our local communities,” said SBA Arkansas District director Edward Haddock.

Haddock remarked at the ceremony that the intended goal of the partnership is to help retain federal contracts within the state — and ultimately benefit America’s warfighters through improved products and services.

Awards in federal contracts totaled $105 billion to small businesses nationally in Fiscal Year 2017, according to the SBA. Last year here in Arkansas, APAC supported 700 active clients who won over $120 million in federal government contracts.

“We are hoping to increase our program with the help of the Small Business Administration, the air force base, the Division of Agriculture (University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service), and with the help of resource partners as well,” said Arkansas Procurement Assistance Center director Melanie Berman.

She noted this dynamic relationship between the air force base, SBA, and APAC will open the way to the growth of Arkansas businesses and ultimately to build capacity to obtain government contracts.

The value of this program was not overlooked by officials at the University of Arkansas.

“We are proud to be the home of the Arkansas Procurement Assistance Center and of their support of this program with the Little Rock Air Force Base and the Small Business Administration,” said Rick Cartwright, associate vice president-agriculture-extension for the Division of Agriculture. “Community development and entrepreneurship are inseparable from our mission to help individuals, businesses and communities improve their prospects for success.”

For more information on upcoming workshops, please visit the APAC at https://www.uaex.edu/business-communities/apac-government-contracting or telephone 501-671-2390.