Updates and Information on Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Skip to main content

KNOXVILLE — Entrepreneurs have long appreciated the merits of networking, but one new business owner can tag the value of his recent networking efforts at $1.2 million.

Jerry Bechel is a U.S. Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War, then worked for more than 30 years in the construction industry. In 2007, Bechel decided to start his own business, Veterans National Contracting LLC. While he was comfortable with his knowledge of the construction industry, he was uncertain how to navigate the processes and paperwork to open a business — especially a business that eventually would do work for government agencies.

“I didn’t know where to start, but I knew I had to do everything right from the beginning,” Bechel said.

Bechel asked counselors with the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) at the UT Center for Industrial Services (CIS) for help. The PTAC staff of Debbie Barber, Russell Toone and Joe Flynn collectively helped Bechel prepare documentation and meet registration requirements necessary to start his business and become an LLC.

“They helped me at every turn,” Bechel said. “They have had an answer for every problem or question I have had along the way.”

As advised by the PTAC counselors, Bechel began to attend conferences and started to meet contract officers, build relationships and learn government contracting requirements. In just a few months, Bechel’s hard work led to the award of a $1.2 million contract with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Veterans National Contracting will replace nearly 3,000 aging light fixtures at the Memphis VA Medical Center with more energy-efficient lighting. To remove a single fixture, install a new light and clean the area takes over an hour. Then, each old fixture must be disassembled off site and packaged for proper disposal.

With hospitals, schools and government buildings facing similar needs of updating their energy systems, Bechel anticipates a growing demand for his services. With help from PTAC counselors, he has structured and registered his business so he can meet the demands.

“He has worked hard, done a great job of networking and listened to the counsel we’ve provided at PTAC,” Toone said. “He always completes the tasks we recommend, and his diligence has paid off.”

Upcoming PTAC Conferences

Similar to the conferences that introduced Bechel to government contracting and registrations, the UT Center for Industrial Services PTAC is offering two conferences in August to increase business opportunities for all businesses, including service-disabled veteran and veteran-owned small businesses. The conferences offer sessions on conducting business with NASA; understanding the basics of government contracting; getting on the General Services Administration (GSA) Schedule; and financing options for small businesses, including the Patriot Loan Program for veterans.

Other sessions will describe franchise options for small businesses, technology transfer, emerging business opportunities and business planning for small businesses.

Conference attendees will have the opportunity to meet with buyers, contractors and other representatives from federal, state and local government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Energy and others. At the conferences, attendees can schedule one-on-one appointments with buyers and other government agency representatives.

In partnership with the Y-12 National Security Complex, UT CIS PTAC will offer the East Tennessee Veterans Business Conference Aug. 5 in Oak Ridge. The conference will be from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the New Hope Center, 602 Scarboro Road. Tennessee Commissioner John Keys, Department of Veterans Affairs, is honorary chair of the conference.

UT CIS PTAC also is partnering with U.S. Congressman Lincoln Davis to offer the Federal Funding Seminar Aug. 11-12 at the Coffee County Convention Center in Manchester.

For more information on the UT CIS PTAC or the conferences, visit http://www.cis.tennessee.edu/government/contracts or contact Debbie Barber at (615) 532-4916 or debbie.barber@tennessee.edu.

Both conferences are free, but registration is required. To register for either conference, call toll-free (888) 763-7439 or register online at http://www.cis.tennessee.edu/training. Both conferences are listed under “Working with the Government.”


Queena Jones, (865) 974-1533, queena.jones@tennessee.edu
Debbie Barber, 615) 532-4916 or debbie.barber@tennessee.edu