Back Together, at Last

SAME’s 2021 Federal Small Business Conference, held November 15-19 in Atlanta, Ga., offered the first in-person event in nearly two years as over 3,300 attendees met both in-person and virtually to learn, connect, and collaborate on the upcoming challenges in the A/E/C industry. This “first” for SAME, an in-person event with virtual participation available, is the evolution of how the Society has pivoted, and adapted, in the face of the pandemic in order to continue to deliver value.

The conference officially kicked off Wednesday November 17, with a full house of attendees intently listening in on the Opening General Session featuring engineering leadership with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Office of the Secretary of Defense. Across the services, the message was that significant investments in facilities and infrastructure is anticipated in the near future, and that support from industry would be key to enabling its completion. Most importantly, there needs to be a culture of trust and reliability in delivering the program in order to support national security now and to build for the future, as the demands of tomorrow are only going to grow and evolve.

On Day Two, attendees enjoyed a double header of inspiring speakers: Bibi Hidalgo, Associate Administrator of SBA for Government Contracting and Business Development, and Melissa Stockwell, American War Hero and two-time Paralympian. Both speakers addressed how seeing obstacles as opportunities had served them well—whether it was obstacles for small businesses in the wake of the pandemic, or personal obstacles such as the loss of a leg due to a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Collaborating to Meet Today’s Challenges

Along with these general sessions, a pair of discussions held during the week—the CEO Roundtable on Wednesday, and a session Friday morning on small business size standards—covered ongoing Industry-Government Engagement projects underway at SAME and underscored how the ideas, connections, and takeaways are not a moment in time that ends when attendees head home.

First, the CEO Roundtable dove into the subject of cybersecurity in the built environment and the interconnection between the advances created by smart technologies and the corollary risks to critical infrastructure that can arise unintentionally. Lead by Lucian Niemeyer, F.SAME, formerly the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Installations, Energy & Environment), the roundtable brought together senior government and industry decision-makers to discuss effective policy and standards for enhancing cybersecurity resiliency for federal facilities and infrastructure and serve as a “vector check” for the project. Currently, the building cyber security methodology is being evaluated within the commercial sector and the insurance industry. The plan through the IGE project is to bring on government and industry representatives and determine interest and potential application for the federal/defense sector. Additional events within SAME will be held in the coming months to track progress, with JETC in May the next big checkpoint for its impact.

“My passion within SAME has always been industry-government engagement and this is a government problem: we don’t have a healthy competitive marketplace in the federal market for small business.”
– Mercedes Enrique, F.SAME, President, CMS Corp.

Secondly, a presentation on Friday morning provided an update and test for another SAME IGE project on small business size standards and the challenges of growing “beyond small” in the federal market. Featuring Mercedes Enrique, F.SAME, of CMS Corp., Mike Huffstetler, F.SAME, of DLR Group, Tony Franco of PilieroMazza, and Jordan Howard with Associated General Contractors of America, the discussion examined the issues that small business face within federal acquisition when they are successful and want to continue to grow, but by doing so, take themselves out of the more supported environment as a small business, with its protections and set-asides, and into the open water of large businesses.

Attendees also enjoyed over 30 hours of educational sessions; business opportunity sessions featuring representatives from USACE, NAVFAC, AFCEC, GSA, and the Department of Veterans Affairs; and an Exhibit Hall with over 400 leading A/E/C companies. Recordings of the general sessions, business opportunity sessions, and virtual Expo Hall are available online through the virtual event platform until December 30, 2021.

Leading the Way

On Day Two, the SAME Small Business Awards were presented. The awards, presented this year by SAME National President Rear Adm. Mark Handley, P.E., F.SAME, USN (Ret.), recognize those individuals and firms who have made outstanding contributions over the past year to driving and expanding opportunities for small businesses in the Society.

Congratulations to this year’s honorees!

  • Small Business Award: Art Anderson Associates
  • Large Business Award: Tetra Tech
  • Industry Small Business Advocate Award: Ellen Mack, APTIM
  • Post Small Business Liaison Officer Award: Russ Cirillo, Pinyon Environmental (Denver Metro Post)

During SBC, members of the 2021-2022 Leader Development Program participated in group sessions for the first time since the inaugural class had the opportunity to launch the program back in May 2019. Once the pandemic hit, LDP classes had to move to an entirely virtual curriculum. The return back together this week also provided a chance for members from the third LDP class and others who are attending the conference from the first two classes, as well as several program mentors, to meet together for the first time in person!

Want to learn more about what happened during SBC? Get the full highlights in our Daily Recaps: November 17 | November 18 | November 19

Get More at SBC Encore!

We just couldn’t fit everything at SBC into just one week. Join us for SBC Encore, December 1-3, 2021. Extend your SBC experience by attending specialized virtual sessions, including business opportunity briefings, matched networking opportunities, and the SBC Exhibit Hall featuring leading A/E/C companies. Plus, get access to all the recordings on-demand from sessions held in Atlanta.

Whether you register for SBC in-person or virtually, you get complimentary access to SBC Encore. For more information, visit and enter the Virtual Event Platform.

  • Virtual Networking Appointments, highlighted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • Fireside Chat with Isabella Guzman, Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration
  • Business Opportunity Sessions:
    • General Services Administration
    • Department of State Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations
  • Educational Sessions:
      • Top Takeaways from Federal Contractor Vaccine Mandate
      • SBA Pending Rules Changing the Federal Competitive Landscape
      • Changing Requirements for the Air Force Environmental Impact Analysis Process and NEPA Analysis