As base grows, Fort Meade group adds business development initiative

As suburban Maryland’s Fort Meade continues to grow, the Fort Meade Alliance is increasing its presence, launching a new business development initiative intended to help its members win work on the base.

The nonprofit alliance, which took shape in 2004 to promote Fort Meade as an economic asset, has seen tremendous growth in recent years, according to Tim O’Ferrall, the alliance’s general manager. Its membership surged 22 percent over the past year and 40 percent the year before, to about 275 businesses today.

The growth in the group has mirrored growth at Fort Meade. Already home to an expanding National Security Agency and the new U.S. Cyber Command, the base has benefited from a Pentagon realignment program that added the Defense Information Systems Agency as well as the Defense Media Activity and defense adjudication entities.

The alliance’s members aren’t just contractors — they also include bankers, local governments, colleges and universities and utility providers, among others, and represent a wide range of company sizes.

Now, the alliance is piloting a mentorship program that aims to pair small companies with contractors who have experience working at Fort Meade and who can offer advice and training.

The nine-month program is slated to include two groups of about 12 companies each. Each group will be partnered with a contractor who will rely on a set curriculum on how to win work with Fort Meade’s agencies. The alliance anticipates that the program will help participating companies build partnerships with other members.

“If you have a product or a service that the government is looking for and the only thing between you and getting in there is a good understanding of how you navigate the system . . . we’ll provide that,” O’Ferrall said.

Member companies will be able to apply this summer, and the program is slated to begin in September.

Last year, about 350 small businesses attended an information technology forum meant to connect companies with DISA, said Rosemary Budd, the alliance’s president and a vice president at Chantilly-based contractor TASC.

“We see a gap in terms of understanding the government business in the Fort Meade area, understanding how to go about connecting with that business,” she said.

The alliance’s business development initiative is also preparing to open up an online directory aimed at helping member companies find teammates to compete for government contracts. It will continue to host forums with Fort Meade leaders as well.

Budd said she expects the alliance to continue to grow in the next several years as the base adds personnel and transferred agencies recompete existing contracts.

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