Small business owners had lots of questions Wednesday at a forum in Fayetteville that was designed to help them secure contracts at Fort Bragg.
Some of those questions didn't just focus on the logistics of landing a deal with the government though. Several business owners wanted to know if federal budget cuts would decrease or even end contracts with private companies.
"We've heard 'Oh, you're a critical service. We have to have you. I don't know how we're going to pay you for it, but we have to have you.' It gets a little scary," said Tony Marshal, owner of a Raleigh-based software and transportation company.
He said 80 percent of his revenue currently comes from contract agreements with the U.S. government.
Forum organizer Scott Dorney said the concern is understandable.
"The federal government reaches out to do about 23 percent of their contracting with small businesses every year.
Dorney is the executive director of the North Carolina Military Business Center. He said 83 of North Carolina's 100 counties have at least one business with a government contract. In 2012, that meant $3.6 billion dollars in contracts going to those businesses across the state.
"It is a big deal, but it gets a little scary when they're telling you that they're not sure if they're going to be able to pay you," Marshall commented. "If we expect our economy to go we have to focus on our small businesses. The small businesses are the ones that are hiring folks - that are moving the economy along. We have to find a way to that. I think that via federal contracting is a way that we can move our entire economy around. It's moneys that have to be spent, and if we spend that money is small businesses then our economy will reap a larger benefit from it than moving it to larger businesses."
Bob Franks, the director of logistics for Fort Bragg, said the government still needs essential services that can be met through contracts with local businesses. He said, right now, businesses that focus on health and safety for the military are least likely to be cut.
Franks was on the panel during one of the forum sessions Wednesday. The forum was the first one the Military Business Center hosted to focus on opportunities at Fort Bragg.
"Although the money is slow to flow, when it does flow during this fiscal year it's going to create tremendous opportunity," Dorney said. "So we're looking at very strong third quarter and fourth quarter activity in contracting at Fort Bragg."