Federal contractors flock to Wilmington to meet with government buyers

Federal contractors flock to Wilmington to meet with government buyers
Sen. Richard Burr says it’s been too hard for companies to do business with the government.
Sen. Richard Burr says it’s been too hard for companies to do business with the government.

WHITEVILLE, NC (WECT) - Sen. Richard Burr kicked off the 2014 Federal Construction, Infrastructure & Environment (FEDCON) Summit with a call to action for the more than 80 government representatives in attendance.

"The private sector can be a tremendous tool, and I say to my federal colleagues here, why the hell don't we give them a chance?" Burr asked the crowd assembled at the Wilmington Convention Center.

The annual event, launched nine years ago, brings together federal government officials and companies that want to earn their business.

"I think it's been impossible for the private sector to work with government because government is a monopoly…" Burr said. "There is a sense of security having everything contained inside."

FEDCON seeks to change that mentality. Approximately two dozen federal government agencies were represented at the event, sponsored by Burr's office and the North Carolina Military Business Center (NCMBC).

Agencies on hand ranged from military units to the Environmental Protection Agency to the National Parks Service.

Scott Dorney, NCMBC executive director, said with a construction boom winding down on North Carolina military bases, contractors are focusing on renovation, environmental and infrastructure projects.

Contracting is increasing in the state, home to $5.7 billion in total federal contracts, including approximately $3 billion with the Department of Defense, according to Dorney.

Chris Williford, CEO of Southern Piping Company, said the Wilson-based business started pursuing federal contracting in 2008. The uptick in military projects during the recession helped offset losses in the contractor's existing lines of business, he explained.

Williford said he believes FEDCON offers an opportunity to help open doors with decision makers.

"There's nothing like talking to someone face to face, certainly technology offers a lot of opportunities to reach out, but there's nothing like shaking someone's hand and looking in their eyes and talking with them about your projects and what you can do for them," he said.

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