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Businesses show wares, services on post

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POSTED: April 2, 2010 1:21 p.m.
Photo by Denise Etheridge/

Several local businesses, like VIP Office Furniture & Supply in Hinesville, participated in the 2010 Business and Outreach Expo on Wednesday at Fort Stewart. From left are Jodie Leigh Ellis, Porcha Carew, Jean Shaw and MeLissa Green.

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About 75 vendors sought to make a profitable match with the government during the 2010 Business and Outreach Expo held Wednesday on Fort Stewart.
Businesses from across the country and across town were offered seminars on small business survival strategies and how to do business with the federal government. They also were given opportunities to meet with the appropriate government buyers.
The event was sponsored by the Directorate of Contracting, the Office of Small Business Programs and Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
Jennifer Jones, the director of contracting at Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield, said the expo helps spur fair competition among vendors, giving small businesses a chance to procure government contracts.
“The government does try to give preference to small businesses,” Jones said.
The expo helps vendors — big and small — by giving them a “venue” to demonstrate their products and exposure to soldiers and defense contractors, she said.
Jones said the one-on-one matchmaking sessions aid contractors as well.
“We can match (future procurements) to these businesses,” she said.
A maze of companies’ booths filled Club Stewart’s ballroom, each exhibit showcasing wares ranging from tents, building supplies, tactical gear and safety products to medical supplies, promotional items, office and barracks furniture and office products. Some companies that participated in the expo are headquartered in distant states. Others are based here in Hinesville.
VIP Office Furniture & Supply employee Jodie Leigh Ellis said VIP was established in Hinesville 35 years ago, and is one of 19 businesses that have Blanket Purchase Agreements with the U.S. Army. VIP is at 109 Central Ave., formerly Memorial Drive, in downtown Hinesville.
“The Army is mandated to buy (office supplies) from businesses that have BPAs,” Ellis said. “We received our BPA from the Army in 2004.”
VIP Marketing Director Porcha Carew said although VIP is situated just outside Fort Stewart’s gates, they attend the expo each year.
“As close as we are to the post, we still want them to know we’re here in their hometown,” Carew said.
VIP Promotional Products sales representative Jennifer Buehler said VIP’s products can help build pride and instill identity among troops. VIP Promotional Products, a sister business to VIP Office Furniture & Supply, offers more than 700,000 items from hats and T-shirts to coins and blankets, Buehler said.
“We sell primarily to the federal government,” she said. “We work with career counselors on Fort Stewart.”
Buehler said post counselors give VIP promo items away as incentives to help retain soldiers.
 “The U.S. government — specifically the Department of Defense — is the world’s largest customer,” said Fastenal Government Sales Manager Tim Williams. Fastenal sells industrial and construction supplies.
Williams said the government remains self-sustaining even in tough economic times and “lends itself to business.”
Fastenal is based in Atlanta but has a local office off Gen. Screven Way in Hinesville.
Michael Knapp, general manager of Fastenal’s Hinesville office, said the company has accounts on post and is involved in the 4th Heavy Brigade Combat Team’s new barracks construction.
“We can provide anything you will need on a job site,” Knapp said.
American Tent, a small business based in Frederick, Md., is a newcomer to Fort Stewart’s yearly Business and Outreach Expo.
“We go up and down the Eastern Seaboard, from Vermont to Miami,” said Charlie Hood. Hood and her husband, Tom Hood, own the tent-supply company.
Hood said the expo helps give small companies  like hers gain exposure to government procurement representatives.
“You do these shows so you can hopefully meet with a few people and follow through with appointments,” said Adden Furniture Direct Sale Representative Tim Brown.
Adden Furniture, in Lumberton, N.C., sells furniture for use in military barracks, lodging facilities and college dormitories.
In addition to products, some companies at the expo, like Aerotek, can provide qualified staff for Fort Stewart’s subcontractors when they need to fill job vacancies. Aerotek is an operating company of Allegis Group Inc., which claims to be the largest staffing company in the United States.
Aerotek account executive Christian Siesing said his company specializes in industrial workers for skilled trades and the engineering field.
“This is our first time to Fort Stewart,” Siesing said. “We did Fort Benning last year.”

 

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