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Fort Stewart vendor fair to help match local businesses with military
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Vendor fair classes will cover the following:

• Selling to the government

• Selling to Fort Stewart

• Importance of a business plan for new and existing

• Minority- and women-owned business classifications

• Reviewing purchasing card use

In an effort to help local businesses learn how to do business with the military, the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce will host a vendor fair from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 30 at Club Stewart on Fort Stewart.

About 70 vendors from the area and out of state are expected to participate in the event, which is open to the public free of charge, according to Leah Poole, Liberty County Chamber of Commerce executive director.

“Maybe (local business owners) don’t know what the process is. This may help simplify it a little bit,” Poole said. “We also have soldiers getting out of the Army who may want to start businesses.”

The chamber will offer classes to teach the contracting process to business people. Classes in starting a business also will be given, Poole said.

“We had one soldier contact us who wants to open a Latin bakery,” the chamber director said. Even though the man’s idea for a business may be a good one, he should have a sound business plan in place before going forward, she advised.

 “If you don’t have a plan it’s not a benefit to you,” Poole said.

In addition, the chamber will promote the fair’s theme of “Shop, Save, Support,” which encourages citizens to shop locally to help support Liberty County’s economy, the chamber director said.

Chamber officials anticipate a better turnout at this vendor fair than the one held two years ago. In 2009, most of the 3rd Infantry Division was deployed to Iraq.

“It’s the first time we’ve held the vendor fair when the whole division is home,” said Daniel Clark, vendor fair committee chairman and owner of Imprint Warehouse.

Clark said the Army Corps of Engineers, Gulfstream and Federal Law Enforcement Training Center will teach local business people how to contract with them.

“We’re looking at entities where people can get involved in selling to the government,” he said.

Clark added that the chamber also will match up businesses with various contractors, giving local business people 15 minutes to ask companies about their bidding processes.

In addition, the fair will give vendors and local merchants an opportunity to meet an estimated 800 purchasing card agents, according to Clark and Poole.

Clark explained that these purchasing card agents are soldiers who are authorized to spend their unit’s discretionary funds on various services and products. The current limit on these purchasing cards is up to $3,000, he said.

“Once they reach certain figures — over $3,000 — they have to go through (Fort Stewart’s) central contracting and have a bid (process),” he said.

Clark’s own company, Imprint Warehouse, often conducts business with military purchasing card holders, selling such items as logoed hats, T-shirts and challenge coins, he said.

“It’s not all that we do, but the military is a big part of what we do,” Clark said.

He said the fair creates an atmosphere where local merchants can showcase their products.

“The fair is one of the most successful events we offer,” Clark said. “For our business, it has always been very beneficial — the best investment we do of all of our marketing efforts.”

Clark said through contacts made at vendor fairs, Imprint Warehouse now counts Georgia Southern University’s JROTC program and JROTC recruiters that cover six southeastern states among its clients.

As of press time, Clark said there were only two vendor slots left for the fair. The fair’s title sponsor this year is DRASH (DHS Systems LLC), a company that manufactures deployable rapid assembly shelters. The 2009 fair’s title sponsor, Disaster Management Group, has returned to sponsor the event this year, Clark said.

For more information, call 368-4516.

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