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The live virtual panel discussion, “Successful Entrepreneurs from Rural States Talk about Growing an Advanced Technology Firm,” was a great success – facilitating an energetic and in-depth discussion amongst panelists and over 100 interested attendees. This discussion wrapped up the current series of webinars sponsored by the USSOCOM Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program office. Designed to reach out to underserved communities, this series is a means of implementing guidelines articulated in the SBIR/ STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011.
In addition to talking about the growth of their firms and the use of the SBIR program, each presenter reflected upon those state resources that affected the growth of their company. Dexter Myers, Vice President of Pacific Engineering, located in Roca, Nebraska said, “The state of Nebraska has several programs to assist advanced technology firms. We received a Pre-Seed Grant under the Talent and Innovation Initiative, offered through the state of Nebraska’s Department of Economic Development.”
Shoaib Shaikh, CEO of XploSafe, located in Stillwater, Oklahoma said, “The Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) has been a tremendous asset in providing gap funding within Phase I and Phase II, proposal services, and workshops that have helped improve the quality of our proposals.” Chad Mullen, Programs Manager at OCAST, elaborated on one of the key benefits they provide in addition to gap funding. “We have a great program called the External Proposal Review service. Once you have an SBIR proposal written, we try to simulate a review process prior to submission. We have experts that review your proposal and score it similar to how it will be scored once it gets to the agency.”
Arkansas Power Electronics, Inc. (APEI) also joined the panel and was the recent recipient of the Governor’s Quick Action Fund for use in a new manufacturing facility. Sharmila Mounce, Director of Business Operations said, “We work very closely with the state of Arkansas and several agencies within the state. Developing a close relationship your state can help you potentially get those funds.” Kraig Olejniczak, Vice President of Engineering for APEI added that sometimes companies can request and secure state funding to travel to national SBIR conferences and workshops hosted by the various government agencies, and this extremely helpful in making key contacts and pitching technologies.
A lively discussion followed, with attendees asking many questions about how to increase the likelihood of winning SBIR awards.
“The USSOCOM SBIR Program Office is dedicated to serving companies in rural communities and we encourage business owners to compete for SBIR award monies,” explains Bonny Heet, SBIR Program Manager for USSOCOM. “This discussion enabled attendees to see what other successful companies are doing to win and leverage SBIR funds, and the panelists did a wonderful job of sharing very useful information.”
The federal SBIR program awards over $2 billion to small businesses every year. Underserved small firms, which by definition include women-owned, minority-owned, veteran-owned and those located in rural states, are equally encouraged to compete for USSOCOM SBIR awards and show how their innovative technologies can provide solutions to the U.S. Department of Defense.
The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has been a leader in this outreach initiative and in giving small businesses in these communities the tools they need to commercialize and achieve success.