19th CONS, HERKWERX host pitch day, vendor fair

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Valerie Halbert
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- The 19th Contracting Squadron and HERKWERX innovation lab hosted the first combined vendor fair and pitch day at the Jacksonville-Little Rock Air Force Base University Center, April 25.

Before the doors opened to the public, the day began with an information panel to educate local vendors on how to establish contracts with the Air Force.  

“We started with an hour-long question and answer session with members from the 19th CONS, 19th Force Support Squadron, the HERKWERX team, the Arkansas Procurement Technical Assistance Center and the U.S. Small Business Administration [Arkansas District],” said Capt. Stephen Savonne, HERKWERX chief innovation officer. “This open discussion allowed all parties to learn about the different programs and how contracting, sales, and research agreements can be accomplished.”

In 2019, the Air Force hosted its first pitch day as a fast-track program for putting companies on one-page contracts and same-day awards with the swipe from a government credit card; giving small businesses and startups access to the military market.

“Little Rock [Air Force Base] has committed 37.5% of our Squadron Innovation Funds to our pitch day in order to fund our contracts,” Savonnne said. “Our scope is small and we are targeting specific problem sets we’ve identified that might be solved by small businesses in Arkansas or our surrounding states.”

The pitch day allowed companies to present proposals specific to the Dash 21 Storage Project, a problem-set presented by the 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, which was solicited earlier this year.

“There was a problem identified that could not be solved internally without a large impact to the mission,” Savonne said. “We spent time defining the problem and discovering the impact that this project has on the unit. With that information, we refined the requirements and posted the problem via SAM.gov, which allowed any registered company to enter a solicitation for a pitch.”

The team then communicated with interested parties to answer questions in advance in an effort to create an environment for more robust pitches. In the week leading up the event, all of the companies were presented a draft contract based on the project, where if selected, an amendment would be made following the pitch, Savonne explained.

“The pitch day event resulted in an offer being made for the project and the contract was signed within 48 hours,” Savonne said. “We also invited our partner organizations to observe the event to be better informed as to how the 19th CONS team is able to pursue these projects.”

The overarching intent of the event was aimed at demonstrating the Air Force’s commitment to building a faster and smarter strategy with technology investments and small, nontraditional partnerships.

While also focusing on partnerships, the vendor fair allowed Team Little Rock to meet local vendors and learn more about small businesses within the community to strengthen those relationships.

In total, the fair included 23 vendors and three local partner organizations, representing industries such as metal technology, storage solutions, resource management, and food provisioning.

In the event that a local business could provide an innovative solution for a unit, government purchase card holders were able to utilize their normal GPC functions to meet that need, while the HERKWERX and 19th CONS team were available to assist unit representatives utilize their innovation funds.

According to Savonne, during the fair, units began initial coordination and discussions with vendors for at least five projects and two Small Business Innovation Research collaborations.

“This vendor fair was designed to build relationships between industry and Team Little Rock,” said Staff Sgt. Trenton Sikute, 19th CONS contracting officer. “We strive for events like these to foster clear lines of communication [with our] partners and we hope this event encourages companies to do business with Team Little Rock and the Air Force as a whole.”