Colonels, contractors and community colleges (and a few interviews) in North Carolina

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generals and the like

Today, I conclude my North Carolina visit after an intensive day at the North Carolina Federal Construction, Infrastructure and Environmental (FEDCON) summit, co-ordinated by the North Carolina Military Business Center, a “business development entity of the North Carolina community college system.”

me with bob kruhm at fedcon
Me (right) with Bob Kruhm and Jamie Booth, business development manager at contractor W. M. Jordan Company

If that isn’t a mouthful, I needed to listen to more acronyms and abbreviations for specialized terms than I’ve ever heard in a long time: MATOC/MAC, IDIQ, NAICS, and plenty more. (The first person to spell out and define these acronyms in a comment will win a free copy of my social media marketing book and I welcome you to come up with others.)

Yet these acronyms are all quite relevant. Even though the great base construction boom has ended and activity is returning to pre Afghan and Iraq war levels, we’re still taking about $500 million or more annually in work in the North Carolina market alone. It peaked at $2 billion or more  a few years ago.

Col. Steven A Baker, Wilmington District Commander of the Army Corps of Engineers
Col. Steven A Baker, Wilmington District Commander of the Army Corps of Engineers

Not surprisingly, given the market size and recently-ended boom, there’s plenty of competition, but even here, several military officers made clear they are having trouble meeting their set-aside quotas for small business, veterans, women and minority-owned contractors — and the small business component is upwards of $85 million a year.  

I learned from the event’s keynote speaker (and North Carolina state speaker) Thom Tillis that the military is the second largest economic driver in the state (after agriculture). I learned from others locally that the North Carolina state government is currently controlled by Tea Party Republicans, resulting in legislative decisions that would bring heart to individuals who like to carry concealed weapons anywhere they wish, but might dismay advocates of Obamacare or organized labor. (The Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) not surprisingly, however, is rather happy with the current environment.)

The biggest observation here is that  many intriguing and potentially extremely effective marketing and business development opportunities could be right under your nose, in your own state or community. I don’t know if the North Carolina story is unique — the state community college system co-ordinates a military business development centre, then organizes a conference focusing largely on construction (attracting hundreds of exhibitors and guests). However, I expect, if you look closely, you can discover other variants and opportunities close to your home.

Undoubtedly, the summit provided direct contact opportunities. As an example, Col. Steven Baker, commander of the Wilmington district of the Army Corps of Engineers, stood in his military uniform at the Corps’ booth next to ours, greeting guests and conversing with contractors and suppliers. Suppliers, vendors and other service providers had plenty of opportunities for one-on-one meetings or to participate as speakers in panel discussions.

Today, I’ll return home after interviewing a few candidates to take on responsibility for our publications here when Bob retires at the end of the year.

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