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NASA Director of Procurement Michael McCarthy, an Albany native, makes a presentation to Albany State University President Marion Fedrick.

Representatives from a number of government military installations and agencies were on hand to provide information during Wednesday’s forum at Albany State University.

Representatives from a number of government military installations and agencies were on hand to provide information during Wednesday's forum at Albany State University.

Eddie West, second from left, speaks with representatives of Orangeburg, S.C.-based W&B Enterprises during a break at a Wednesday forum at Albany State University’s West Campus.

NASA Director of Procurement Michael McCarthy, an Albany native, makes a presentation to Albany State University President Marion Fedrick.

Representatives from a number of government military installations and agencies were on hand to provide information during Wednesday’s forum at Albany State University.

Representatives from a number of government military installations and agencies were on hand to provide information during Wednesday's forum at Albany State University.

Eddie West, second from left, speaks with representatives of Orangeburg, S.C.-based W&B Enterprises during a break at a Wednesday forum at Albany State University’s West Campus.

ALBANY – There’s a reason that the proverb “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is still frequently heard.

On Wednesday, some of those people to know in the world of government contracting gathered in a conference room at the West Campus of Albany State University where company owners looking to do business with government entities could shake hands and exchange business cards.

The forum brought representatives from NASA, the U.S. General Services Administration, Small Business Administration and military installations to Albany to discuss how companies can do business with the government.

In terms of overall government spending, NASA is a small piece of the federal pie, said Michael McCarthy, NASA’s director of procurement, but more than 80 percent of the agency’s budget is contracted out.

“We targeted southwest Georgia” as a central location for government installations in states including Alabama, Florida and Mississippi, he said during an interview during a break between speakers. “Our small business people at NASA put these on and they invited the Marine Corps, Air Force and Army (and other agencies) to bring it all here.”

McCarthy, an Albany native who graduated from Monroe Comprehensive High School and Albany State University, said NASA holds similar forums to inform companies across the country.

Topics covered included NASA’s acquisition process, upcoming business opportunities and best practices to win a direct contract or subcontract, as well as marketing advice.

“People interested in doing business with the federal government can do it here instead of trying to reach out to each one individually,” McCarthy said.

The forum, the second sponsored by the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and A. West Enterprise of Albany, drew people from as far away as Dallas and Orangeburg, S.C.

Jack Long of Texas-based Hydradyne, a national distributor of hydraulic, pneumatic and electromechanical products, told The Herald the company already is doing extensive contract work for federal agencies.

“This is just a chance to meet some of the new command and introduce myself and to see what’s coming up,” he said. “This gives us a chance to see people and to meet new people.

“It’s really kind of simple once you make certain contacts,” Long said of doing work with federal agencies. “I’ve been doing business with (Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany) for years. We’re doing a couple of the hangars at Warner Robins (Air Force Base).”

For companies that do business with the government, it means the opportunity for good-paying jobs, Eddie West of A. West said during an interview prior to the start of the forum.

“Electricians make $44 an hour in Florida, and I can’t hire one,” said West, whose company has done work at Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, Fla., as well as contracting with other federal agencies.”

Jobs that require such technical skills are in high demand, he said. Albany’s “biggest challenge” is providing the training those workers need.

“I’m just really happy NASA came to town. It’s a real good opportunity for us if Albany can take advantage of it.”

The government procurement process is not as onerous as one might imagine, West said, and its purchasing is not limited to rockets.

“NASA has demand for everything from clothes to vehicles to people,” he said. “Once you know the process and have the right credentials, once you have that and provide a good competitive price — that’s important, because it is a bidding process — they’re real good people to work with.”

Companies don’t have to be big to work with government agencies, said Jessica Craig of the Orangeburg-based promotional company W&B Enterprises, as she moved around the conference room speaking with representatives. It was Craig’s second such conference with NASA, the other being at Kennedy Space Center, where the company was able to get some work with defense contractor Northrup Grumman.

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“I think these events are great because the companies really help small businesses get in touch with big companies,” she said.

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