Small business panel connects industry with key resources

  • Published
  • By Jessica Casserly
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Hanscom AFB small business and contracting experts shared insights and resources with local business leaders during a Hanscom Representatives Association event Nov. 1.

Andrea Panagoulias, director of Small Business Programs here, and Kristina Botelho, a Digital Directorate contracting officer, joined members of the Massachusetts APEX Accelerator, the General Services Administration, and the Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Network’s Cryptologic and Cyber Systems Division Small Business Programs office for a hybrid HRA panel event at the University of Massachusetts Lowell Applied Research Corporation’s Northstar Campus in Lincoln, Massachusetts. The discussion focused on the value of market research, recent changes in small business legislation, security clearance requirements for joint ventures, and a variety of other topics.

Panagoulias emphasized the importance of market research for acquisition and contract planning. She said her office encourages engagement early and often with both industry and the program offices to increase awareness of specific mission needs, as well as the capabilities, solution sets and types of businesses that might be able to support those needs. With this information, Panagoulias said her office can then advise on the small business aspects of acquisition strategies.

“We try to leverage industry organizations within the area,” she said. “If there is a really significant request for information, industry day, or draft request for proposal that is going out and we know it will generate a lot of interest, we’ll send it to HRA and AFCEA’s Lexington-Concord Chapter to make sure that industry knows what’s going on at Hanscom and that they’re aware of potential opportunities.”

Botelho also noted the value of government and industry engagement, saying that “collider events” and other networking opportunities are “where the government, innovation, and small business are connecting.” 

“I try to be that person that small businesses can reach out to and ask those hard questions that they’re afraid to ask other people,” she said. “That’s what I’m really passionate about, trying to make Department of Defense contracting as easy as possible for small startups.”

Panelists from the Massachusetts APEX Accelerator and the GSA also shared how their organizations are working to make collaboration between government and industry easier.

Stanley Grip, a procurement specialist with the Massachusetts APEX Accelerator highlighted Bid Match, an APEX Accelerator Boolean search engine that helps match business capabilities with open solicitations in the federal register, as well as participating state and local government registers. Relevant solicitation links are then emailed directly to the businesses, Grip said, saving valuable time.

Mike D’Alessandro, branch chief for the Air Force and Space Force accounts within the GSA office of Customer and Stakeholder Engagement, provided details on GSA’s Market Research as a Service program, which he said offers “free, fast, high-quality” market research to GSA customers and helps streamline the request for information process.
In addition to presentations from each of the panelists, the HRA event also featured a Q&A session with in-person and virtual attendees.

Zakiya Norris, small business specialist in the Cryptologic and Cyber Systems Division Small Business Programs office, shared how offices like hers serve as a bridge to help industry connect with contracting officers, program managers and other government representatives, as well as assist with matching small business capabilities to potential end users.

The ultimate takeaway from the panel discussion is that the Department of the Air Force strives to maximize small business participation in support of the mission, Panagoulias said.

“I hope that this event showed how all of our panelists and their organizations support the Hanscom acquisition community, as well as small businesses,” said Natasha Ludwig, HRA president. “I think this event is really helpful for our members and I hope that everyone takes advantage of the resources that were discussed.”

To contact the Hanscom Small Business Programs office, email Panagoulias at

HRA brings representatives from small, large, and startup businesses in the Hanscom AFB region together to encourage collaboration in the acquisition process. More information about HRA can be found at