Companies urged not to miss out on USAF business in the East

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Companies are missing out on supplying the equivalent of a small town on their doorstep.

That was the message from the United States Air Force’s procurement officials at the Bury Free Press’ Business to Business Show today.

Neil Holland, plans and programmes flight chief with the 48th Contracting Squadron, was the main speaker at the show in The Athenaeum, Bury St Edmunds, attended by 50 businesses from around the region.

Before his seminar Mr Holland said: “There are a lot of companies out there that don’t even realise that the USAF is in this country.

“People round here see the planes and read about us in the press but they probably don’t think about all the equipment and services we need.”

Some may think they bring everything over from the USA, but while that is true of major equipment like aircraft and armaments, it is not so of many other things. Contracts recently issued locally range from a gospel music teacher to side scan sonar, though construction work is handled by the Ministry of Defence. The also need ‘commodities’ which includes office equipment, engineering parts and IT equipment.

Mr Holland said: “You can think of Lakenheath as a small town. We do all the contracts that would support a small town: cooks, CCTV guys, hospital equipment even falconry to scare birds.

“Though overall spend has gone down, we’re awarding more contracts to British companies and a lot of that is from participating in events like this.”

In his seminar Mr Holland showed figures that said in 2009 when the USAF spent $37 million, 44 per cent went to UK suppliers but so far this year, with a spend of just over $25 million, 59 per cent has gone to UK firms.

Though 48th Contracting Squadron is based at RAF Lakenheath it handles procurement for USAF bases as far away as Fairford, Gloucestershire . Contracts under $25,000 can be viewed at http://www.forest-heath.gov.uk/downloads/download/200/usafe_contract_opportunities and those over that are at www.fbo.gov. The contracting squadron is at 48cons/lgpc@lakenheath.af.mil.

The Bury Free Press Business to Business Show, part of Bury’s Business Festival, is on until 7pm this evening, admission free.