In hopes of breaking into the government contracting market, more than 200 civilian contractors and 30 exhibiting companies filled the Killeen Civic and Conference Center June 23 for the Army Contracting Summit hosted by the Defense Leadership Forum.

“The focus of this event is to bring together government and both small and large businesses that are involved in defense contracting or are looking to get into the market,” said Lana Corrigan, the operations and event director for the Defense Leadership Forum.

This was the first Army Contracting Summit to take place on Fort Hood and it was geared toward equipping civilian contractors and companies with the right tools to be successful in the government contracting market. Prior to the summit, the Defense Leadership Forum held a workshop to teach contractors step by step how to conduct federal business.

“If you’re jumping into the federal market cold and you’ve never done it before, then it can be daunting,” said Howard Snow, the summit moderator. “They don’t know the steps, processes or procedure, so we teach them that in the workshop and then let them hear the speakers during the summit day.”

The Defense Leadership Forum brought in several experts on defense contracting to speak to civilian contractors, such as Congressman John Carter who is a member of the House of Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and Clay Cole, director of the 418th Contracting Support Brigade.

“I really appreciated Congressman Carter’s remarks on how difficult this market is and how important it is to have government and industry in the same room,” Corrigan said. “I also appreciated that Mr. Cole took time to talk to every single exhibitor about what they offer and what their questions are and helped each of them to the best of his abilities and was very relevant.”

There were 34 different exhibiting companies who attended the summit to either expand existing contracts or to develop new connections to work with the government in the future. Some of the companies who attended included University Loft Company, Transource, Woodlawn Manufacturing, SourceAmerica and Gemini Tech Services, LLC.

The companies that attended sold “everything from mattresses and furniture for the barracks to expeditionary housing, solar panels, electronic routers and source gear,” Snow said.

One company that found success in the summit was Safety Nerds, a company that came to market their new product “Ice Cold,” which can be added to any refrigeration system to increase its efficiency.

“We have made some really interesting contacts,” said Heather Richardson, Vice President of operations for Safety Nerds. “We were able to speak with the congressman and he pointed out where on the Fort Hood website we could start working with their department of public works and hopefully work with the third-party company that works with on-base housing and put the product into houses where Soldiers and their Families will be able to benefit by saving money on electricity and having a cooler home.”

Numerous government and military representatives were present at the summit to help network with contractors and to speak with them about future opportunities and needed solutions that are coming up in government contracting.

Maj. Stephen Caldwell, a British liaison officer to CASOM, came to learn more about American defense contracting and how he can adapt in the government contracting market.

“It’s about understanding how the American system works and then comparing it to the British system to align the two so I can make sure that when I’m speaking to various Americans I’m speaking to the right person to get the right answers, because the systems are not the same,” Caldwell said. “Today’s event added to my understanding to make future links to the industry and to make more links with the sustainment brigade.”

The Defense Leadership Forum has been hosting events geared toward finding new solutions and strategies on the forefront of defense contracting for the past three years.

“It’s all about contacts and talking to the right people and doing the research,” Richardson added. “It really takes a lot of work and I think talking to everyone here and networking has really allowed us to make those contacts.”