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Diverse Small Businesses Discuss FirstNet Opportunities at Matchmaking Event

May 16, 2018 by Maureen Lewis, Director, Minority Telecommunications Development, Office of Policy Analysis and Development

On May 9, 2018, the U.S. Commerce Department brought together more than 100 small businesses for matchmaking opportunities with AT&T and five first-tier vendors helping AT&T build FirstNet, a nationwide broadband network and related services for first responders. In March 2017, the Department entered into a 25-year contract with AT&T for constructing and operating FirstNet.

The matchmaking event attracted diverse small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans, minorities, and women, as well as firms that are part of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) program. Commerce procurement officials from the Census Bureau, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and Enterprise Services shared information about upcoming federal contracts.

Small firms from Texas, Michigan, Tennessee, and New Jersey, among other states, joined local companies at the matchmaking event held at USPTO. Their products and services included cybersecurity offerings, software development, drones, network design and integration, fiber and tower installation, manufacturing, engineering, as well as construction. Companies discussed potential teaming opportunities as they waited to meet with first-tier vendors and agencies. Several federal and corporate exhibitors remarked about the number of impressive small businesses they encountered.

The matchmaking event resulted from a longstanding partnership between NTIA and the Department’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU), led by Director LaJuene Desmukes, to support NTIA’s efforts to promote small and minority business development in the telecom and IT sectors. After Congress established the First Responder Network Authority as an independent authority within NTIA, we began work on FirstNet opportunities for small businesses.  

This year’s Big “A” Conference for Commerce procurement and program staff provided a timely showcase for the groundbreaking FirstNet contract with AT&T, which exemplifies the conference theme “Advancing Acquisition Innovation.” Director of Acquisition Operations for the FirstNet Authority Pat Bergin, Contracting Officer Terrie Callahan, and Program Manager James Mitchell presented the government perspective on the partnership at a conference plenary session.  Later, Bergin and Callahan spoke to small businesses during the afternoon matchmaking. 

NTIA, the FirstNet Authority, OSDBU staff and the Department’s Office of Acquisition Management are working together to help small businesses gain opportunities through FirstNet and subcontracting opportunities through AT&T and its large business subcontractors.