Okinawa-First Showcase opens doors to business

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KADENA AIR BASE, Japan – While sitting in the auditorium, you see people leaning forward with glowing eyes and hear rapid whispers as a speaker begins to walk up to the podium. As they finish preparing, silence falls over the room as the other attendees of the Okinawa-First Showcase listen to the first speaker of the seminar.

“Together, we can forge a strong partnership that not only supports the U.S. military’s mission, but also contributes to the growth and prosperity of the local Okinawan economy,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Laura Ramos, 18th Mission Support Group commander, as she addressed the local vendors and service members to open the showcase.

With the end of the remarks, conversation resounded throughout the ballroom. You add to the echoes of undisguised excitement and intrigue at the various goods and services on display. The displays presented a variety of goods and services, from construction and engineering to furniture.

When you heard the 18th Contracting Squadron and Marine Corps Installations Pacific Regional Contracting Office were jointly hosting the Okinawa-First Showcase, a contracting education and acquisition seminar, you weren’t sure what to expect, but you see how valuable an opportunity it is for both local vendors and government purchase cardholders.

The return of this event after COVID-19 re-opened the doors for local businesses to showcase their goods and services. Additionally, the event provided an educational seminar to help local businesses understand the barriers and initial steps of doing business with the U.S. government, something you would have loved to have several years ago when you were navigating that process yourself.

“There were approximately 100 guests across 30 vendor groups. Half of those groups were first-time attendees and prospective vendors,” said Rina Yamauchi, 18th CONS plans and programs manager and Okinawa-First organizer. “The educational seminar was designed to enhance local companies’ capacity to bid on contracts.”

In order to conduct business with the U.S. government, you had to be registered in the System for Award Management. At the seminar, the 18th CONS provided counseling for vendors who were interested in beginning the process.

“It can be a very long process, especially since it is done in an English system,” said 1st Lt. Mary Davison, 18th CONS specialized and commodities flight officer in charge. “That can be hard for some of the local vendors and discouraging, so we wanted to help ease that process and make it easier to understand the necessary steps.”

Akira Yamauchi, a first-time attendee you met at the seminar mentioned some of the difficulties they’ve seen when trying to do business with the bases.

“It is hard for some vendors to search for opportunities if they don’t know anyone personally on the base, or not already registered [on SAM],” Yamauchi said. “Many small businesses do not have English speakers or websites to advertise their service.”

Eddie Hirakawa, a first-time attendee you met while perusing the vendors, used to work with the 18th Civil Engineer Squadron. He spoke with you of the importance of bringing the bases and local businesses together.

“The more we have a relationship, the better the understanding between the bases and the local communities,” said Hirakawa. “Access to the base is hard for us [Okinawans] so most people do not have the chance to get to know the base.”

You find yourself lost in thought and wonder if increasing business with local companies will benefit the U.S. military with more than just facilities and equipment. The contracting officer who you chatted with earlier seemed to think so.

“By learning more about the market we might find local innovations that may help better prepare the multi-force capability in Okinawa,” said Davison. “They may do things that we never even thought of that we could implement into agile combat employment concepts.”

You go back to your booth, review your proudly arranged products that represent the best of what you can do, and think: this is just a stepping stone, you’re just getting started.

“Just as the Okinawan people are gracious hosts to the U.S. military, Okinawan companies are excellent business partners,” said Ramos. “We are committed to ensuring Okinawan companies have opportunities like today to showcase their products and services.”

Date Taken: 11.07.2023
Date Posted: 11.20.2023 19:34
Story ID: 458171

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