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Photo by: Work on the James Webb space telescope was performed at Marshall Space Flight Center.

Mobile hosts NASA, aerospace companies for business development event

MOBILE, Alabama — Representatives of NASA agencies and big-name aerospace companies will be in Alabama’s Port City in early September for a business networking and trade show event that could result in new partnerships or contracts for small- and mid-sized firms.

The business-to-business forum, hosted by the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, is set for 8 a.m-3 p.m. Sept. 4 at the Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center at One South Water Street. The chamber said officials from several NASA agencies and prime contractors will deliver presentations and participate in a trade show meant to give local firms an opportunity to make personal contacts.

“You’ll be able to do in one day, under one roof, what could take a normal person – if they were lucky – months to accomplish,” said Danette Richards, the chamber’s director of small business development.

The chamber said NASA, which has deep roots in Alabama, was drawn to Mobile because of the city’s rising profile in the global aerospace sector. Aviation giant Airbus is building an A320 passenger jet assembly line at Brookley Aeroplex, which will make Mobile one of the few places in the world where big commercial jets are assembled. The $600 million project will create 1,000 direct jobs and is expected to attract suppliers and service companies. (Read why Airbus picked Mobile.)

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, where the Saturn V rocket was designed and the next-generation Space Launch System is being developed, is sending representatives to the forum. Officials from NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, the Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana, and the space agency’s Shared Services Center will be on hand.  Representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are also scheduled to attend.

Also attending will be purchasing agents and other officials from more than two dozen NASA prime contractors desiring to team with local small businesses on federal contracts. These companies include Northrop Grumman, ATK Aerospace, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Lockheed Martin, Teledyne Brown Engineering, Dynetics, the United Launch Alliance and Boeing Co., according to the chamber.

Bob Smith, the Alabama Department of Commerce’s assistant director of business development and the agency’s point man on aerospace projects, is scheduled to attend the event. Aerospace is one of the 11 target sectors selected for growth in Accelerate Alabama, the state’s official economic development blueprint.

Events like the Mobile business-to-business forum are seen as facilitating expansion of the state’s already robust aerospace sector, which boasts more than 300 companies with 83,000 employees.

“The Mobile Area Chamber’s Small Business Development department has consistently done an excellent job of providing business opportunities for their small, medium and minority business enterprises,” said Eddie Postell, manager of the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Small Business Office of Advocacy. “This B2B event is a continuation of those efforts and their commitment to provide value to those businesses in the area and the region in which they serve.”

Among those on the agenda for the chamber event is Fairhope native Todd May, manager of NASA’s Space Launch System, the propulsion system meant to power flight to Mars. During his two decades at NASA, May has worked on the International Space Station project and managed the robotic lunar program, which included the successful launches of two lunar probes in 2009. Read an interview with May.

Registration for the event is $75 and includes lunch and a post-conference reception sponsored by Boeing. (See information here.)

“There’s significant value in peer-to-peer networking,” Richards said. “A lot of partnerships and deals between attendees are made at these sessions as well.”

Photo by: This image from NASA shows a small satellite.

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