Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic recently participated in the Charleston Defense Contractors Association’s (CDCA) first Virtual Small Business and Industry Outreach Initiative (SBIOI) Symposium.
More than 350 members from the defense sector attended the live event, which was held virtually using Zoom for Government due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“Our members were grateful to hear from the government, to be able to ask questions and the fact that we were able to still engage and have the two-way industry-government interaction during this was much appreciated,” said Heather Walker, CDCA president. “The fact that we could still reach the same number of participants, and could accommodate more virtual participation in the future, is a victory for us.”
The SBIOI agenda was similar to what it would have been had it been in-person, with one exception. Chuck Kramer, NIWC Atlantic emergency manager, provided an in-depth presentation on NIWC Atlantic’s COVID-19 precautionary measures to keep employees safe, the Navy and command’s response to the pandemic and available small business resources.
“We typically ask industry for feedback on what topics they want us to cover,” said Robin Rourk, NIWC Atlantic Office of Small Business Program deputy director. “For this particular event, industry asked for COVID-19 specific updates and to include information about NIWC Atlantic facilities.”
In addition to Kramer and Rourk, several other NIWC Atlantic leadership spoke, including Executive Director Peter Reddy and Contracts Director Steve Harnig. In addition, participants were able to ask questions through email or chat, just as they would in-person, and receive answers during the session.
Reddy provided updates about NIWC Atlantic’s phased Return to Workplace plan, NavalX Tech Bridges, the newly accredited Operational Application and Service Innovation Site and collaboration with industry partners during COVID-19. Harnig presented an industry opportunity forecast report and gave an overview of each department’s contract forecast.
“Events like the virtual SBIOI are incredible opportunities for us to continually engage and collaborate closely with our industry partners. This is in alignment with everything that the Department of the Navy is trying to do during this challenging time,” said Reddy. “Staying engaged with industry partners through SBIOI and other avenues, allows us to respond effectively during this pandemic and to keep our information warfare mission moving forward.”
While the virtual SBIOI was overall a success, there were a few noticeable differences from a traditional face-to-face SBIOI.
“The biggest challenge of being virtual is that you cannot get the networking that you normally do when we are all gathered together,” said Harnig. “Our business does require relationships and trust to be formed and it is difficult to form those things when you aren’t face-to-face. However, it was successful because we were able to share our messages, answer questions, and provide our industry partners with the information they requested.”
With the continued prevalence of COVID-19, the next SBIOI will be also virtual and scheduled for July 22-23, 10:00am – 1:00pm Eastern Time each day. For more information, visit https://www.charlestondca.org/cdca-54th-sbioi-virtual.