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Conference enlightens small business owners

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Business owners gathered at an Air Force Small Business Conference to learn new strategies in becoming more marketable at the Pacific Coast Club here March 18. The conference provided business owners with the techniques needed to attain contracts with the government and other businesses. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Heather Shaw)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Business owners gathered at an Air Force Small Business Conference to learn new strategies in becoming more marketable at the Pacific Coast Club here March 18. The conference provided business owners with the techniques needed to attain contracts with the government and other businesses. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Heather Shaw)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Guest speaker Ronald Poussard, Office of Small Business Programs director, educates the attendees of the Small Business Conference at the Pacific Coast Club here March 18. The conference provided business owners with techniques needed to attain contracts with the government and other businesses.(U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Heather Shaw)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Guest speaker Ronald Poussard, Office of Small Business Programs director, educates the attendees of the Small Business Conference at the Pacific Coast Club here March 18. The conference provided business owners with techniques needed to attain contracts with the government and other businesses.(U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Heather Shaw)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Vandenberg hosted the annual Small Business Conference at the Pacific Coast Club here March 18 and 19 in an effort to reach out to local small business owners looking to attain government contracts with the base. 

More than 400 people attended the event this year, an increase of more than 100 from just last year. This year's theme "What's New? What's Next!" provided business owners with the strategies needed to vocalize what their businesses have to offer. 

"We are working on a strategic plan to truly demonstrate the capabilities that small businesses have in meeting our Air Force mission," said Ronald Poussard, the Office of Small Business Programs director at the Pentagon. 

Sharon Siegal, the District Director of the office of Congresswoman Lois Capps, was one of this year's key speakers. Ms. Siegal addressed the availability of the economic stimulus package and how small business owners can make sure they get their share. 

Congress fights every year to be able to use federal tax money to support the efforts of small business owners. 

"We assure that we advocate for small businesses to get government contracts," said Dee Perry, the small business program specialist for Vandenberg. 

The event also afforded small businesses the ability to network with key vendors and to meet with large business owners looking for new acquisitions. 

"By having conferences like this, even though a particular business sells something that we don't buy here at the 30th (space wing), they get the opportunity to meet these large businesses that may sub-contract from them ... it's a big networking thing. It provides (small businesses) with opportunity," said Ms. Perry. 

Highlights of the second day were the base tour and the government purchase card vendor fair. More than 70 vendors were on site hoping to attract business from the GPC holders. The conference provided the opportunity to have both sellers and buyers in one central location, making it a win-win situation for everyone. Sometimes, however, results of the fair are not immediate. 

"It's not always direct; often it's an indirect result. We were picked by the Air Force for the Manufacturing Technical Assistance Production Program because of the meeting (held) here last year," said Jeff Estep, owner of a local small business in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. "You don't always go home knowing you have made a deal, sometimes you find out later." 

For more information about next year's conference, contact Dee Perry at 805-605-7265, or email her at sadbu@vandenberg.af.mil.