Businesses in the mid-Atlantic region are in close proximity to major government agencies and large contractors, but business opportunities in government-fueled industries can seem remote for companies who don’t know how to get in the door.
The Howard County Chamber of Commerce launched the GovConnects public/private sector initiative in February to educate local industry participants and connect them with opportunities with the local, state and federal government. Special emphasis is given to defense contracting, the intelligence community and related industries as GovConnects represents the interests of regional businesses in the wider community.
GovConnects started with a group of chamber members who recognized a need for better advocacy for the interests of the large and growing government contracting community in the region.
Elizabeth Rendón-Sherman, CEO/CFO of LG-TEK, Marc Rubin, partner with Patuxent Valuation Group LLC, and Wayne Wilhelm, owner of Wilhelm Commercial Builders, were among the first to work with Chamber President and CEO Pam Klahr to bring GovConnects to life.
Former chamber board of directors Chair Ron Meliker was part of the initial team, and Stephen White and Michael Muscatello of Aronson LLC also joined the effort to create the structure of the initiative.
The first step was to recruit additional members to form an advisory council and engage other community leaders. Today, the advisory council represents a cross-section of the business community in Howard County. It is actively engaged in creating GovConnects’ educational programs and developing targeted resources and networking opportunities.
The council is seeking additional members with business units specializing in defense and technology industries as well as medium- and small-sized technology companies with strong roots in the Howard County community.
This year, the chamber welcomed Maureen Thomas as the executive director of GovConnects. Thomas brings more than 20 years of experience working in public-private sector relations and program management for clients in the government, small business and not-for-profit sectors.
Her federal government experience includes working within the intelligence community and as a Naval Reserve officer. One of her duty assignments included attending the Defense Information School at Fort Meade.
“GovConnects’ primary mission is to bridge the various elements of the government contracting, defense and technology communities established in the region,” Thomas said. “The program is engaging members from industry, government, research and education to create greater opportunities for synergy and foster the spirit of collaboration.”
In addition to establishing contacts in government procurement and industry business development, GovConnects is engaged in building relationships with local universities and research centers. The initiative will learn more about the research and workforce educational programming they offer and assist in promoting these opportunities to businesses.
The second critical component of the mission is education and resources. GovConnects will offer opportunities for businesses of all sizes and at all stages of development to better understand how to operate in the new business environment defined by cybertechnology.
With time, the program will develop other opportunities for government contractors in space development and research and other technology-related industries. It also will develop resources and contacts to help businesses find the information they need to compete effectively in today’s marketplace for government contracts.
The third element of GovConnect’s strategy is to provide exclusive networking opportunities. While the chamber offers broader avenues for local businesses to network, GovConnects will offer more focused opportunities for businesses and government representatives to connect and explore partnering and teaming activities.
A calendar of educational and networking events is available online at www.GovConnects.com along with more information about GovConnects’ mission and leadership. Individuals with an interest in government contracting are encouraged to join the GovConnects mailing list by clicking the link on the web site, and to join the GovConnects group on LinkedIn.