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Procurement center finds enough financial assistance to continue all of its services

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The organization that helps businesses get government contracts at Fort Drum is set to provide expanded services in Oswego and Oneida counties.

Lynn M. Pietroski, CEO and president of the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce, said efforts to raise the necessary $22,000 for the North Country Procurement Technical Assistance Center program were successful, so the center then could secure a $76,000 matching grant from the federal Department of Defense.

The center helps businesses and clients in Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Oswego and Oneida counties to secure contracts at Fort Drum and through the state and federal governments.

“We’ll serve all five counties and we’re happy it can continue on,” Mrs. Pietroski said.

The center was sent scrambling to find other sources for the $22,000 it needed to send its counselors to help businesses in Oswego and Oneida counties. Without the funds, clients in those counties would have been required to drive to the center in the Chamber of Commerce offices on Coffeen Street, said Carl A. McLaughlin, executive director for the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization.

Two weeks ago, the Watertown Local Development Corp., also known as the Watertown Trust, agreed to contribute $3,000. The New York Business Development Corp. and the Development Authority of the North Country, and other organizations that wanted to remain anonymous, also stepped forward, Mrs. Pietroski said. She said the chamber will use in-kind services to support the cause.

The center had to find local funding because Jefferson County no longer is designated a “distressed” community, Mrs. Pietroski said. That also means the center will be required to look for funding in future years to help pay for the programming, she said.

The Watertown Trust board warned it was committed to the $3,000 only this year. Board members suggested the center start looking now at ways to make sure sustained funding was in place for the future.

When asked about what caused the funding flap, Mrs. Pietroski said the center wanted to look to the future and “focus on the positive,” declining to explain how the problem occurred. She said her office has started putting together a strategy to find funding in future years, but also declined to comment on what it would entail.

Providing the service for free, the center helps businesses expand and do more work with the government by helping them get through bureaucratic red tape and contract language that may be difficult to decipher.

The center has a $140,000 budget this year and two employees, Stephen M. Barr, program manager, and Katrina Kapustay, counselor-in-training.

The center shows clients how to apply for and bid on government projects, develop marketing plans and develop business plans that match each company’s niche with the right projects.

Last year, the center helped about 275 small and large businesses, with about 90 of them in Watertown, Mr. Barr said. Over the years, the center has helped to obtain about $94 million in Fort Drum contracts for its clients.

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