By April Dudash
It's no secret that Fort Bragg is an economic engine in North Carolina, but we've noticed more out-of-towners checking us out here lately. We reported last fall that Wake County Economic Development seemed to be spending more time in Fayetteville than usual, and now, the Fort Bragg Regional Alliance has announced a yearlong partnership with North Carolina's Southeast and the Research Triangle Regional Partnership.
The alliance, formerly known as the BRAC Regional Task Force, works to attract defense-related companies to an 11-county region around Fort Bragg. The partnership grew out of monthly meetings with N.C. Southeast and RTRP, according to alliance executive director Greg Taylor.
"It was really just building upon what we've already been doing," said Joe Melvin, N.C. Southeast's director of business development. "Now, it's just a more formalized agreement."
Together, the organizations will target businesses that worked with Forces Command before it moved from Atlanta to Fort Bragg and survey local businesses about contracting opportunities in the region, Taylor said. "(The) more people you have out there scanning the horizon, there are more chances you're going to spot an opportunity."
Pass the palak paneer
A tasty bit of business news comes from the Defense Commissary Agency. Tandoor Chef, a family-owned company that sells Indian frozen meals, is distributing to 30 eastern region commissaries, including Fort Bragg.
Fort Bragg now offers chicken tikka marsala with a mild and creamy sauce, a spicy chicken curry and palak paneer, a spinach and cheese vegetarian dish.
"We're taking steps now to see how much further out we can expand," said Mike Ryan, Tandoor Chef's vice president of marketing. "So far, the results are good."
Universities in the news
East Carolina University can put another feather in its pirate hat - ECU is one of 34 companies and institutions that has partnered with Joining Forces, a White House challenge to train or hire 100,000 unemployed veterans and their spouses by 2013.
The university joined the DOD Military Spouse Employment Partnership. To date, the partnership has hired 22,000 spouses and more than 446,000 jobs have been posted to the partership's website.
John Toller, the ECU associate vice chancellor for human resources, and Kristen Meyer, a military spouse and ECU academic coordinator in the athletics department, along with her Marine Corps husband, attended the Partner Induction Ceremony at the Pentagon.
"This program is a no-brainer," Toller said. "Once it's set up, this is ... tapping into a talent pool that is filled with motivated people."
Meyer is newly married, and her husband has been in the Marine Corps since January. She has been working at ECU while he finishes basic training in Quantico, Va.
Meyer plans to leave ECU in August to reunite with her husband. She says the other military spouses who spoke at the Pentagon about holding down jobs gave her confidence.
Other companies with local ties that recently joined the spouse employment initiative are intelligence and cyber solutions company L-3 STRATIS, which has two Fayetteville locations, on Raeford Road and Village Drive, and engineering and construction company URS Corporation, which has a location on Fort Bragg. msepjobs.militaryonesource.mil
N.C. State on defense
North Carolina State University has something to brag about, too. It received a portion of the $155 million in research funding that the Department of Defense is doling out through the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiatives program. Out of 78 proposals, 23 received five-year awards.
John Harlim, an assistant mathematics professor, works on one of the research teams that received the funding. His "Physics Constrained Stochastic-Statistical Models for Extended Range Environmental Prediction" apparently caught the eye of the Office of Naval Research.
Harlim said this isn't the first time his department has received federal funding for this area of research, which he's been working on since 2005. And for those of us who don't know what physics constrained stochastic-statistical models even are, Harlim says they are used to develop inexpensive and extremely accurate weather prediction techniques.
With a successful model, the Defense Department could predict climate variability for months or even years.
The second N.C. State project to receive funding is "Wave Optics of Deep Atmospheric Turbulence: From Underlying Physics towards Predictive Modeling, Mitigation and Exploitation." What a doozy.
Laying down the law
David Hayden and Jackson Moore are familiar faces at North Carolina Military Business Center events. If you are a business new to government contracting, you've probably heard them list the pros and cons of partnering.
Their law firm, Smith Anderson, has been chosen as one of 30 finalists for the 2012 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.
The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve waded through 3,236 nominations this year, and Smith Anderson is the only North Carolina company that made the cut.
Smith Anderson's history (it was started by a World War I veteran), its policies (the firm offers differential pay and comprehensive benefits), its staff of nine judge advocates and numerous military family members, and its community work with the USO and other groups made the firm stand out.
"We're looking for companies that really go above and beyond what's required by the law," said Darrell Johnson, an ESGR program support manager based in Salisbury. North Carolina companies have won 10 freedom awards in the past nine years.
Hayden, a retired Army colonel who served as the staff judge advocate for Fort Bragg and the 18th Airborne Corps, said Smith Anderson's staff ranges from a National Guardsman in its IT department to a paralegal married to an Apache helicopter pilot.
"You just don't stop and rest on your laurels," Hayden said. "There are a lot more things that need to be done."