BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT: 27th Annual NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Business Opportunities Expo

By  //  November 26, 2017

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One of largest outreach events along east coast for small businesses

Attendees speak to representatives from NASA’s Office of Small Business Programs during Kennedy Space Center’s 27th Business Opportunities Expo held at Cruise Terminal 5 at Port Canaveral in Florida on Oct. 24, 2017. Representatives from the 45th Space Wing, Kennedy’s prime contractors, NASA and many more agencies and organizations were on hand to provide information and answer questions. (NASA/Ben Smegelsky image)

BREVARD COUNTY • KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLORIDA – For business owners like Theresa Cooper and Brian Larson, participating as vendors at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Business Opportunities Expo recently, the exhibition was indeed a unique opportunity.

“With each handshake, I could feel the excitement of new opportunities and growth within the space industry,” Cooper said.

“One of the takeaways I found helpful was the ability to network with large and small businesses, share our capability and experience, and form new prospective partnerships.”

Her company, GP Strategies in Titusville, Florida, has been participating in the event since the mid-1990s.

“This is our second year participating,” said Larson, of Kardex Storage Systems LLC in Jacksonville, Florida. “We do a lot of business on the Space Coast. It’s a good fit for us.”

Hundreds of business leaders interested in learning about government contracting opportunities and what local and national vendors have to offer attended the business expo, held this fall at Cruise Terminal 5 at Port Canaveral in Florida. The event drew more than 180 exhibitors and about 1,700 registered participants.

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First-year participant David Turcios, a surety bond specialist with Nielson Bonds based in Miami Lakes, Florida, said his business partner attended the expo last year and was so impressed with the turnout that she insisted they be an exhibitor this year.

“What an incredible event,” Turcios said.

“One of the positives of participating is seeing all of the opportunities available for small businesses and emerging contractors.”

Now in its 27th year, the annual expo is sponsored by Kennedy’s Prime Contractor Board, the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing and the Canaveral Port Authority. Kennedy’s Central Industry Assistance Office provides support to small companies that want to do business at the center. The office works with the Prime Contractor Board to help small businesses learn how to navigate in the world of government contracting.

“This is, by far, probably the largest outreach event for small businesses on the east coast,” said Glenn Delgado, associate administrator of NASA’s Office of Small Business Programs.

“Opportunities like this don’t come along very often.”

Steve Herrera, an exhibitor with NASA, answers questions at Kennedy Space Center’s 27th Business Opportunities Expo. (NASA/Ben Smegelsky image)

Delgado said federal agencies, small business specialists and NASA’s large prime contractors can help smaller firms learn how to do business with the government. The last fiscal year, through the Small Business Program, NASA awarded about $2.7 billion directly to small businesses working with the agency.

Michael McCarty, Kennedy’s director of Procurement, said the benefits of this event are tremendous. “It’s a great opportunity for the small business community to take advantage of NASA’s Small Business specialists and learn as much as possible about how to do business with us,” McCarty said. “Industry is extremely important to us.”

McCarty said Kennedy spends more than $2 billion a year, with more than 80 percent of its budget spent through procurements with commercial firms.

Valerie Muck, Small Business director for the U.S. Air Force, said her team is responsible for directing, managing, measuring and overseeing the execution of the small business programs for the Air Force.

“We play an important role in bridging the gap between Air Force requirements and strategies and the technologies small business can bring to the table,” Muck said.

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A Small Business panel question-and-answer session allowed participants to learn about the different programs in place to help small companies do business with NASA and the U.S. Air Force. Panelists included Valerie Muck, Small Business director, U.S. Air Force; Margot Dorfman, chief executive officer, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce; Andrew Harold, co-founder and board chairman, Florida 8(a) Alliance; Ileana Serrano, data dissemination specialist, Illinois and Indiana, U.S. Census Bureau; and Eduardo Ramos, senior area manager, U.S. Small Business Administration, North Florida District Office.

Erica Lemp, executive director, weVenture at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, attended the expo the last four years.

“It’s an opportunity to meet and network with some of the great small businesses in Brevard and other areas of Florida who we don’t usually get the opportunity to meet. As a small business resource organization, this event provides us with great exposure and access to businesses who might require our assistance as they grow,” Lemp said.