PLAINS TWP. — It has taken Benco Dental about two years to learn how to compete for business from the federal government, and on Thursday representatives of the Pittston Township business learned more about that process.
Cathy Chesnalavage, Benco’s director of customer service, said the company has secured a few contracts with the feds, but Thursday’s event — the NEPA Alliance Government Contracting Coalition conference — gave it insight in how to build its network.
U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright and Scott Denniston, executive director of the National Veteran Small Business Coalition, were the featured speakers at the event held at The Woodlands.
“This is a great way to meet people and make contacts,” Chesnalavage said. “Hopefully, it will help us get on government schedules, and that would increase our sales.”
The event offered local businesses the opportunity to learn how to do business with state and federal agencies and prime contractors.
“It’s our job at NEPA Alliance to connect our local businesses with contacts in the government marketplace,” said Jeff Box, president of alliance. “This event will help local businesses take advantage of the many opportunities out there.”
There were workshops on government contracting and meetings with government agency buying offices, government prime contractors and economic development agencies. About 22 exhibitors attended and there was a total of six educational workshops, with three repeated to maximize attendee participation.
Cartwright, D-Moosic, said the NEPA Alliance’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center provides aid to small businesses, including women-, minority-, veteran- and service-disabled, veteran-owned businesses in pursuing and winning government contracts and prime contractor subcontracts.
“PTAC’s results speak for themselves, as just last year the center helped with 106 initial business counseling sessions and 800 follow-up sessions, supported the retention and creation of 780 area jobs, and, most importantly, reported over $109 million in governmental sales,” Cartwright said.
Denniston offered attendees guidelines on how to deal with government decision-makers and how to get through the front door of government offices.
“First of all, you can’t play the game if you don’t know the rules,” Denniston said. “Small businesses face challenges because they aren’t as well known as the larger, established companies.”
But the key, Denniston said, is learning how to establish relationships.
Pamela Burlock, owner of Greenway Solutions in Laflin, tracks assets for her clients. She can tell a client what was purchased, how much it cost and where it is located.
“I learned a lot today,” she said. “It’s good to be able to hear people in the know so we can apply those tips to our businesses.”