Navy is reaching out to Whidbey business

Captain Pat Rios, Commanding Officer NAVFAC Northwest, addresses a group of small business owners, contractors and engineers last week during a small business outreach event held at the Oak Harbor Elks Club. Kathy Reed/Whidbey Crosswind

The Navy is looking for a few small businesses. In fact, it may be looking for more than just a few.

At a small business outreach event conducted by Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Northwest last week at the Elks Club in Oak Harbor, officials said the Northwest region is a good place to be.

“We’re going through a spike in workload in the Northwest,” Capt. Pat Rios, commanding officer of NAVFAC Northwest, told a crowd of more than 100 small business owners, contractors and engineers. “Capital improvements in the Northwest region is still growing, with a lot of missions coming to it. It’s one of few areas still in a growth mode.”

NAVFAC Northwest primarily contracts for construction, architect and engineering services, environmental services and facilities support.

But within those agreements with prime contractors are opportunities for savvy small business owners.

“Large contractors have significant requirements they must satisfy,” Rios said. “65-percent of their sub-contractor dollars must go to small business.”

“There are contracts out there that only small businesses can bid on,” Steve Shapro, NAVFAC Northwest deputy for small business, said in an interview prior to the outreach. “Number one, small businesses need to know what we do. Events like this are full of good tips and information on how we go about what we do.”

Shapro said learning about the requirements can be overwhelming to some small businesses.

“It can be daunting. Some will come and listen and say it’s too hard,” he said. “It does take a little bit of work, but for the businesses that stick with it, it can be lucrative.”

When asked about what kind of impact Continuing Resolutions may have on the Navy’s ability to move forward with projects, Rios was optimistic.

“I think we’re going to have a very busy end of the year,” he said, meaning dollars that can’t be spent now could be available later, after the federal government passes the 2011 fiscal budget.

The event also featured panels which outlined what the government and contractors look for in a small business.

But perhaps the most important part of the event was a networking session, which gave small business owners a chance to talk with some of the prime contractors and NAVFAC officials and make what could prove to be vital connections.

“Networking gives you a chance to start engaging with each other and with large businesses,” said Rios. “It’s about encouraging and enhancing our relationship with small business.”

Anyone with questions on the Navy’s small business contract program is encouraged to contact Steve Shapro at 396-0038 or by email.