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Outreach event highlights construction opportunities available to SDVOSBs

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Service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSB) learned Friday about opportunities available to them in military construction and obtained helpful hints for winning government contracts.

Similar events in the past focused on other types of small businesses. But this one, hosted by Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southwest and the San Diego Contracting Opportunities Center, was the first tailored to the service-disabled veteran community.

"They were one of us," said Navy Capt. Joseph Campbell, officer in charge of construction for Marine Corps Installations West. "In their service to our country they were disabled. It's right for us to help them out.

"It's right for us to take care of our own."

Friday's event at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton's South Mesa Club drew more than 500 pre-registered attendees with more signing up at the door. Attendance last year peaked at 140.

After a tough year for the construction industry, businesses were chomping at the bit to get a piece of the more than $2 billion in construction contracts to be awarded in the next year.

But that's only part of the work NAVFAC Southwest has planned for the Marine Corps bases.

Campbell said $5.4 billion of work is slated for MCI West during a four- or five-year period that includes barracks to support a growing force, a new hospital, and NAVFAC Southwest's first job order contract for SDVOSB.

There now are about 3,200 construction contractors working on MCI West bases.

"That's a lot of people with jobs," Campbell said. "We're the place to be."

Getting those jobs, however, can be challenging for a small business new to contracting. Friday's outreach event included presentations offering tips for submitting winning proposals as well as highlighting contracting assistance services available to companies wanting to do work with the government.

Among the tips were learning the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), reading the fine print and using resources provided by organizations like the Contracting Opportunities Center and the Small Business Administration.

"You need to gather your intel before you begin your campaign for the work," said Navy Capt. William Whittenberg, facilities director for MCI West, during the event.

He said learning the rules a company must follow, the requirements of a contract, what is expected of a contractor, and the rules to which the contracting agency must adhere are important steps to winning work.

"It's really easy to think you're being arbitrarily excluded if you don't understand the rules and regulations ..." Whittenberg said.

Whether selected as a prime contractor or a subcontractor, there are opportunities in military construction. And with several billion of dollars up for grabs to complete a variety of projects, many companies will find work.

But for those who do not quickly land a contract, Wittenberg offered some words of encouragement: "If you keep doing good things -- keep doing the right things -- you will get work."

Send your comments to Erin.Bridges@sddt.com

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