PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Hundreds of military suppliers and contractors are in Miramar Beach this week for the 8th annual Defense Leadership Forum Air Force Contracting Summit.
The event is considered one of the top defense business conferences in the country, bringing together contractors and military leadership for two days of networking.
While the summit features dozens of topics and speakers, Tyndall Air Force Base continues to be a major discussion year after year.
“It’s important for us, very important for our community that Tyndall comes back and comes back strong,” said Mike Horsley, CEO of Horsley Construction Group from Panama City. He is one of more than six hundred contractors, subcontractors, military officials, experts and more, all meeting both virtually and in person with a similar goal.
“Just making contacts,” Horsley said, “It’s a great opportunity to make connections with other suppliers, other vendors, other contractors.
They’re here to network, forming partnerships with military leaders and other companies from across the country for opportunities to get involved with future defense contracts on projects like the rebuild of Tyndall Air Force Base. That rebuild is a focus at this year’s summit, drawing the attention of defense contractors and experts nationwide.
“We do see ourselves very heavily involved with the Tyndall rebuild construction,” said Matthew Garry, President of RapidBuilt Steel Buildings. The company has worked with the base in the past and hopes to continue to do so as the rebuild continues.
“This is definitely going to be a multi-year build up for Tyndall,” said Dr. RD Plato, Founder and President of The Plato Group, another company represented at the summit. “It’s something that a contractor can really get in.”
Defense Leadership Forum National Program Director, Charles Sills, said the summit provides an opportunity for both the installation and surrounding business.
“It’s a whole ecosystem of job creation and sustainment,” Sills said. “The more that the companies around here know about what’s coming down, the more jobs that are going to be created, sustained and etcetera.”
Every building at Tyndall Air Force Base was either damaged or destroyed during category five Hurricane Michael in 2020. The federal government has allocated nearly five billion dollars for the rebuild of the base, working to create a “base of the future,” integrating new technology into the rebuild in preparation for the F-35 aircrafts, or “fifth-generation fighters” to arrive there in 2023.