Industry-government engagement is the cornerstone on which SAME was established in 1920, and remains essential to our mission a century later. At the local level, Posts are making a real impact in fostering industry-government engagement and strengthening national security.
TME recently chatted with the Kittyhawk Post about how it is developing programming, locating and lifting up member champions to build trust between the public and private sector, and key insights for other Posts looking to deepen their commitment to industry-government engagement.
Bricks & Clicks: Can you give us a brief overview of the Kittyhawk Post, its programs, and the value they provide?
Kittyhawk: Chartered in 1957, the Kittyhawk Post has supported the partnership of government and industry professionals in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley. We continue to pursue enduring contributions to the built environment. We provide value through STEM scholarships and camp sponsorships, participation in local elementary school science fairs, and technical and social programs. Programs we offer include monthly luncheon PDH credits with industry and government guest speakers, the Small Business Forum, Industry Days, joint meetings with the American Society of Civil Engineers, golf and sporting clay outings, young member mentorship events, career days for high school and college students, donations to local charities, and many more.
For our Industry Day, each year we focus on a current topic or theme that supports industry and government engagement. Our first Industry Day was focused on design-build; it was quite an eye-opener for both government and industry, and actually drove change in the government’s design-build procurement procedures.
We are diverse in professional disciplines and we actively embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of our Post: examples include diverse company and agency affiliations, and networking amongst diverse ethnic and racial cultures. The COVID-19 pandemic, while unwelcomed, also has shed a spotlight on our resiliency, strong bonds, and close relationship, which oftentimes can be taken for granted.
Bricks & Clicks: What would you say are the keys to getting members engaged in industry-government engagement?
Kittyhawk: Our executive board leads our many committees and subcommittees and participates in the Society’s Communities of Interest. The board is comprised of veterans in industry firms and the federal civilian service, personnel who worked in industry but now work in federal civilian service (and vice versa), and professionals across the entire A/E/C spectrum. This mix has strengthened our Post by ensuring that programs we offer are diverse, inclusive, and representative of the needs and shared values of the military, government, and industry.
We recently initiated a “cold call” campaign, contacting members who have not attended a Post event in the last two years. Members were asked six questions: why did you join SAME and the Kittyhawk Post; what are you passionate about with regards to SAME; which one of the SAME strategic goals are you the most excited about personally; what is most important to your firm/organization with regards to SAME; what would you like to see the Post do for you; and is there a role where you would like to contribute more or get more involved in with the Post? Many individuals were looking for contract and networking opportunities, while others wanted to be more involved in the Post. We are now able to better capitalize on hidden opportunities to engage with our members. It is a simple matter of asking questions, listening to the responses, and acting on a plan to provide what members want.
Bricks & Clicks: How are Post members helping drive industry-government engagement at the local level and also nationally?
Kittyhawk: Our Post routinely hosts multiple programs featuring Wright-Patterson AFB and USACE Louisville District on upcoming public works contract opportunities. In 2021, we hosted an IGE Small Business Forum to support a Sustaining Member, CMS Corp., which had chartered two summer college interns to produce a white paper proposing a solution to the challenge faced by federal advanced-smalls businesses when transitioning to an “other-than-small” company size. This initiative has received national-level support within SAME, and our Post provided a forum to study its relevancy from both industry and government perspectives.
In 2020, the Post established a Cleveland Field Chapter to support consultants and government agencies in Northeast Ohio, which was previously underserved by SAME. We look forward to graduating the Field Chapter toward being a full Post within the next 12 to 18 months.
Bricks & Clicks: How has the Post delivered value through the pandemic?
Kittyhawk: COVID-19 has been challenging of course for organizations all around. We have had to fight though the setbacks of limited face-to-face event offerings and engagement in elementary and college STEM programs. Though we have had some in-person events, most have been offered virtually. The biggest value in these virtual events is the flexibility for attendees to participate without travel hindrances. We have also been able to get speakers from outside the local area to present, whereas pre-COVID that would not have been readily possible. Events where we have been able to meet face-to-face are met with much enthusiasm, as members and non-members each welcome the opportunity to come together. Specifically, participation in social events was higher than we had pre-COVID.
Bricks & Clicks: What are the Post’s biggest challenges at the moment?
Kittyhawk: Our biggest challenges fall into two areas. First, many on the board have repeatedly served in various and concurrent multiple roles for many years. While we have not seen any signs of burnout due to the passion and commitment of our board members, we know this is not sustainable. Recruitment for board roles is essential. The second challenge is being able to consistently draw participation to monthly events. We have seen some decline on average, as many value the direct networking that in-person meetings provide. Though we have been able to continue offering all events in some fashion, the virtual environment does have its drawbacks. We hope that once we are able to return to in-person meetings more consistently, participation rates will rebound.
We need to keep staying focused. The Post has been involved in so many initiatives over the years, it is easy to spread our commitments too thin. In 2022, Post leaders have engaged in a strategic direction initiative to focus our resources and align them with the Society’s strategic plan and take advantage of the flexibility offered by the new Streamer requirements.
Bricks & Clicks: What advice would you give to other Posts looking to expand their industry-government engagement?
Kittyhawk: Our advice is to stay tuned to the needs and challenges faced by your members. Offer support to those willing to lead and engage in meaningful initiatives that will benefit government and industry. Keep the programing relevant and offer ample opportunities to engage and network. Engage the Communities of Interest and other national-level groups as a resource.
We would also advise Posts to gather a diverse group of members together to determine the events and outreach desired to expand industry-government engagement. Start small, with events that can be well managed by your team so you are not overwhelmed. Offer events from standard presentations to social events and even field trips to projects that are under construction. Continue to re-evaluate your outreach success so that Post activities can be continually improved.
Another key to our success is the large number of volunteers on the Post’s committees, which we invite to participate at all board meetings. Since they are comprised of professionals from different demographics, everyone brings a unique perspective to the table. This helps us represent our members and provide programs that are relevant and engaging to all.
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