SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois National Guard's United States Property and Fiscal Office (USPFO) and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Foundation presented a Doing Business with the Illinois National Guard seminar for potential contractors Nov. 14 in Springfield.
The seminar provided information to local small businesses and companies about how they can serve the logistical needs of the Illinois National Guard, said Capt. Maureen DiDonato of Springfield, supervisory contract specialist with the USPFO.
"We give this to teach and train (local businesses) on how to make themselves more marketable and they, per our regulations, can compete against others nationally," she said. "This basically helps them sharpen their numbers and add more tools so that they can be more competitive and ultimately, hopefully get contracts."
In 2011 the Illinois National Guard awarded 238 contracts to Illinois owned businesses totaling more than $12 million, said Capt. David Picchi of Springfield, lead contract specialist for the USPFO and contracting systems administrator with the Illinois National Guard's Joint Forces Headquarters. In 2012, there were 410 awarded contracts totaling more than $27 million.
From the 2011 to 2012 fiscal years, there was more than a 100 percent increase in contracts awarded in Illinois, said Picchi. All these contracts are from Illinois-based companies and keep millions of dollars in the state's economy.
"It stimulates the local economy, said Picchi. "We have a responsibility as the Illinois National Guard to do our best to keep funds that support the servicemembers of the Illinois National Guard in Illinois."
The seminar also ensures the companies are updated on the processes and data systems used for federal contracts as they may change with the new fiscal years, she said.
"If you have all those ducks in a row, more than likely you'll get a contract," said DiDonato. "We try to give them awareness and a competitive advantage."
DiDonato said in the two years the Illinois National Guard and Illinois Chamber have held the seminar, the amount of small businesses competing for contracts has increased. There is a continued effort to get more companies involved from all regions of Illinois, she said.
"Originally when we started the program with the Illinois Chamber Foundation it was only in the Springfield-area to see how the response would be," said DiDonato. "We had more than 100 (contractors) come out, with that then the Illinois Chamber wanted to hold seminars in the north and south."
There are now annual seminars held in Aurora and Carbondale to get more local business involved.
DiDonato said the increased state-wide awareness has helped local businesses know how to compete for contracts and be able to do business with the Illinois National Guard and federal government.
Outside of the seminar, DiDonato said they will meet with interested businesses for a face-to-face meeting and provide the same information and support as the seminars.
Picchi said the business seminars have been critical in finding more local businesses to compete for contracts.
"We get new businesses in all the time," said Picchi. "Mainly we get in new sub-contract vendors or new vendors to supply us with service and products."
Picchi said this creates a more competitive market for both existing product and service needs, as well as new ones that can help with local cost effectiveness.
When federal contracts are awarded to local companies it can bring a significant amount of cash flow into the state, said Michael Ayers, chief operating officer of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. When this increased revenue is held within the state, it can enhance the financial maintenance and possible expansion of local companies, he said.
Ayers said the seminars have been well received by Illinois businesses seeking to be a part of the competitive market.
"They're all appreciative of the opportunity and all of them hope to do business with the Guard and provide those goods and services needed," said Ayers.