Richmond Times-Dispatch - November 21, 2011, By Jacob Geiger
ETTRICK -- Fort Lee, the Army post in Prince George County, has gone from a target for closure to what some folks in the area call the logistics capital of the world.
And that growth — the base is receiving a $1.4 billion investment as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act — has led to a surge in federal contracts for nearby small businesses.
"The work local contractors got through Fort Lee has sustained them in some very rough economic times," said Bud Yerly Jr., president of the Tri-Cities commercial banking group for SunTrust.
Yerly, who helps manage the bank's relationships with area small businesses, said he has seen very little deterioration in his loan portfolio, even at a time when late payments and charge-offs have climbed nationally.
Yerly and other small-business experts gathered at Virginia State University this month to spread the word and help train a new wave of small businesses in the mechanics of winning federal contracts.
The event was a joint effort by the Small Business Administration, the Crater Small Business Development Center and Virginia's Gateway Region, an economic development organization for Southside that is funded with public and private money.
Federal contract rules require agencies to "set aside," whenever possible, certain contracts for small-business bids. Federal contracting officers must also divide large purchase orders into smaller "lots," giving small businesses a chance to participate and bid on projects that would otherwise be too large for them to handle.
Virginia receives the second-largest amount of federal contracting dollars for any state, trailing only Texas.
Since the event was held one day before Veterans Day, there was a particular emphasis on set-asides for businesses owned by veterans, including those who have service-related disabilities or injuries. But the event also covered contracting rules for women-owned small businesses and companies located in "historically underutilized business zones."
For Tuffy Neilson, who owns several Tuffy Auto Service shops in the area, the federal government offers a chance to diversify his business.
"I'm trying to get oriented and see how we can get involved," he said.
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The information above is for general awareness only and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Economic Adjustment or the Department of Defense as a whole.