University News

IIRA Program Manager Recognized with Outstanding Project Award

August 20, 2013

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MACOMB, IL — Mary Turner, of the Central Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center, a unit of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University, was recently honored with the "The Outstanding Project Award" by the Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (APTAC). Turner was presented the award at the APTAC National Conference in Atlanta, GA.

Illinois PTACs provide one-on-one counseling, technical information, marketing assistance and training to existing business owners who are interested in selling their products and/or services to local, state or federal government agencies. Turner manages the program as a unit of the IIRA at Western. According to IIRA Director Chris Merrett, the award recognizes an accomplishment exceeding the routine services provided through PTAC operations.

"Mary's WCM—or Webinars, Coaching & Matchmaking—Project serves as a model for other PTACs to emulate, and we are pleased she has developed a tool that can be implemented on a national basis," he said.

Turner said the project included three phases of training, with the first step involving how to identify government agencies that provide information the agency will require from applicants.

"The WCM project received support with provision of contracting requirements from U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. We also received support from the local U.S. Small Business Administration office with hosting the webinars," Turner said.

According to Turner, each webinar was designed for approximately 25 participants, and PTAC held the webinars within two months of each other.

"We had also recorded and made each session available to view later, for any participants who had missed sessions," she said. "Following the webinar sessions, we coached participants on how to prepare for their matchmaking (one-on-one) sessions. A workbook was prepared for each of the participants. It included information received directly from the represented federal agencies and provided questions that could be asked in a matchmaking session."

Turned said the third phase consisted of the matchmaking sessions for the small business owner/representative and each agency, to discuss the small business' products or services.

"This collaboration was extremely successful and provided a definite benefit for PTAC clients," Turner said. "The federal representatives who worked with us on this project were very impressed with the applicants' preparation, scoring the session with a 96 percent approval rating. The representatives also expressed their satisfaction with the potential contractors and considered the event well organized, noting the contractors were suitable for their organizations and indicating the process had been a mutually beneficial endeavor."

The Procurement Technical Assistance Center of Central Illinois program is funded through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. To learn more about the Illinois PTAC, visit

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