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GSA and partners meet in person on Industry Day
June 29, 2018
By Ben Zabava
NEW YORK - Even though virtual environments make almost everything faster and more convenient, they still can’t completely replace the benefits of personal interaction.
GSA's Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner Alan Thomas delivers the keynote address at the Northeast and Caribbean Region's Industry Day June 27 in New York. Photograph by Robert Andersen
U.S. General Services Administration acquisition staff, federal agency customers, and industry vendors gathered June 27 in the Conference Center of the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building in lower Manhattan for an Industry Day event featuring in person discussion of GSA’s Multiple Award Schedules, Global Supply, and Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative programs the Northeast and Caribbean Region administers.
“Industry Day is a great opportunity for our federal partners, industry stakeholders and acquisition workforce to come together to exchange ideas and obtain valuable feedback,” said Jeff Lau, GSA Northeast and Caribbean regional commissioner for the Federal Acquisition Service. “It’s a chance for all parties to engage in an open dialogue, where we can improve the customer experience and support the American taxpayer.”
Visiting New York from GSA headquarters in Washington, D.C., FAS Commissioner Alan Thomas was on hand to deliver the day’s keynote address.
“I always learn something on Industry Day when I get out and talk to our industry partners, and today was no exception,” Thomas said. “The thing I actually liked the most about today’s Industry Day were the large sheets hung up on the walls asking our industry partners for some thoughts on how we can improve the Multiple Award Schedules program. I’m really interested to see what kind of thoughts they have and the sorts of improvements they recommend.”
Besides Thomas, numerous other national and local GSA officials were there, many to take leading roles in panel discussions. Also in attendance and on panels were representatives from customer agencies that use GSA schedules to obtain their supplies, such as the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
GSA personnel carefully organized the day and packed it from beginning to end with informative sessions.
“We’ve been planning this since April,” said Kirsten Clark, lead marketing specialist with the GSA Northeast and Caribbean Region’s Customer and Stakeholder Engagement Division, as well as the day’s project manager. “We’re pleased that we have about 100 vendors here, who we are bringing together with the contracting officers attached to their contracts, and also with the federal agency customers who purchase their contract goods and services.”
As informative as they found all the tips for using GSA's eTools and portals and the shared intel from things like Price, Product, Promotion, and Place Reports, what vendors valued most of all from the day — even in an increasingly “virtual” world — was the opportunity to meet in person with their GSA contracting officers and contracting specialists.
“Getting to meet the contracting officers and the branch chiefs was probably the best part of today,” said Sarah Brzoska of LC Industries. “There’s no substitute for that face-to-face interaction with them.”
“We thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to finally meet our contracting officer and contracting specialist,” said Cindy Hansen of West Publishing Corporation. “We’ve had contracts with GSA for over 20 years, but we’ve never been out here to meet our contracting officers before, so this was wonderful.”
Through these face-to-face meetings, vendors also found out crucial information about their contracting officers and contracting specialists that they had not known before.
“The thing that we learned that I thought was particularly important was about the workload of our (contracting officers and contracting specialists),” said Keyla Durem, also of West Publishing Corporation. “Understanding what their workload looks like when they’re doing modifications and different things with our contracts makes us better prepared as vendors when we are looking at or thinking about submitting mods.”
It wasn’t only COs and CSs that vendors were glad to meet in person.
“What was also very good was meeting other companies in the industry that are also vendors that I could possibly supply or get supplies from,” said Mark Condon of Photikon Corporation. “I also got to meet people from Ability One as well as National Institutes for the Blind, two groups that I otherwise never would have gotten to meet.”
Vendors expressed enthusiasm for more Industry Days in the future.
“I’ll definitely come back,” Condon said, “because things change, the government changes things — I’m sure I’ll have a lot of new questions, and also people change so it’s good to meet face-to-face again.”
The region plans to make Industry Days into regularly scheduled, annual events.