U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05) and the Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corporation (SKED) hosted the Supplier Education and Economic Development (SEED) Defense Contracting Symposium Thursday at the Corbin Center to help educate local employers about how they can compete for more jobs in Southern and Eastern Kentucky.
“The Defense Department awarded $448 billion in federal contracts in fiscal year 2015 alone. I believe we could have captured more of those contracts in Kentucky, so that’s why we’re here – to help our companies become eligible to compete for jobs that we can do right here at home,” said Congressman Rogers, who launched SKED 31 years ago to create more jobs in the region. “Several local employers have secured competitive federal contracts for decades, proving our workforce has what it takes to get the job done right. However, we’re just scratching the surface of opportunity so far.”
Dyke Weatherington, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space, Strategic and Intelligence Systems, who is based in the Pentagon, attended the event to discuss the importance of supplying military needs for our warfighters.
“Providing a strong industrial base is how the Department of Defense is going to get ahead of the threat,” said Weatherington. “With the support of Congress, we are going to push our priorities and there will be lots of opportunities for small business.”
Prime federal contractors, like Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Boeing attended the event to meet with local employers to provide information about the requirements and certifications necessary for federal contracts, including HubZone and ISO certifications.
“We want to help you get ready to do business with us,” said Gwen Tillman, Corporate Manager/Global Supplier for Northrop Grumman Corporation. “With all the changing regulations, it’s a challenge to find companies that are engaged and able to keep up with all the regulations that they have to adhere to.”
Four local employers participated in a panel discussion led by Brett Traver, Executive Director of SKED. Scott Roush from Summit Aviation in Somerset, J.C. Egnew from Outdoor Venture Corporation in Stearns and Bob Schena from Rajant Corporation in Morehead shared their success in creating and retaining jobs through ongoing federal contract work in Kentucky’s Fifth Congressional District. Meanwhile, Rusty Justice from BitSource in Pikeville talked about his interest in expanding.
“Our workforce here is second to none. We believe that with all our heart and our pocket book. We could have invested anywhere in the country, but we chose Eastern Kentucky,” said Justice, who has hired and trained former coal miners to develop digital software. “When we posted the first radio ad for our first 10 jobs at BitSource, we received 950 applications in the first week. I believe we will see a repopulation of people who want to come back to the region.”
To help prepare local employers, SKED was recently awarded a federal grant to help 12 companies become ISO certified.
“The most important thing we can do is open the door of opportunity for our local employers,” said Traver. “We believe this event will bear fruit in the near future in the form of jobs for the people of Southern and Eastern Kentucky.”