The ink is barely dry on a Department of Defense contract won by Morgan State University, but Morgan alumnus Moses A. Cain is already busy setting up shop for Maryland's only Procurement Assistance Center, which will be housed on the university's Northeast Baltimore campus.
Using $60,000 in state funds, $150,000 of Defense Department matching funds and facilities and support donated by the university, Mr. Cain and his three staff members will act as a local liaison and information outlet for businesses owned by minorities and women, and those with 500 or fewer employees seeking to land defense contracts.
Now in its fifth year, the Defense Department procurement assistance program was mandated by Congress to give such businesses an entree to department contracts. The grants finance local assistance centers that help ensure that those smaller companies get their share of the pie.
"The objective is to get all women-owned, minority-owned and small businesses assistance in doing business" with the Defense Department, explained Jan D. Mirijanian, small-business specialist for the department's mid-Atlantic district.
"A lot of companies are not aware of how to do business" with the department, Mr. Mirijanian said in a telephone interview yesterday.
Since the mid-Atlantic district is so vast, stretching from West Virginia to eastern Michigan, its Philadelphia headquarters supplements its services with the local assistance centers, Mr. Mirijanian said.
With hundreds of applicants nationwide for the centers, the competition is stiff among the universities and non-profit organizations that submit applications each year.
Morgan, one of 30 applicants chosen in the district, snagged the one-year renewable grant on its first attempt. Larger competitors such as Penn State and Temple universities, which previously landed grants, lost out this year, while Howard University in Washington received a grant.
Mr. Mirijanian said Morgan's application was a standout.
"They simply wrote up beautiful proposals," he said, praising the people involved in the university's plan and its location.
With more than 20 years of defense-related experience with the Pentagon itself and with local contractors Bendix Co. and TEXCOM, Mr. Cain cut his retirement from TEXCOM short after just one year to write Morgan's proposal, assume the title of director and spearhead Morgan's efforts to land the grant.
The center's coming-out will begin with a conference in early December for potential contractors.
The center will act as "a reservoir of knowledge," providing as much one-on-one counseling and assistance as possible, Mr. Cain said.
"We're not going to know it all, but we at least want to know where to go to get the answers," he said.