The Long Island Forum for Technology was awarded a grant from the Small Business Administration to continue developing the Long Island Rail Alliance. The program, which is barely a year old, is being spearheaded by LIFT and designed to help local small businesses team up to compete for federal contracts on rail and transportation projects.

The grant award this year was $454,545. It is the second year LIFT has been awarded funding from the SBA for the rail alliance -- the organization received $200,000 last year. The SBA grant is part of the agency's small business teaming program, which encourages small companies to partner together to attract more business.

LIFT has taken steps to establish a foundation for the rail alliance by holding meetings, setting up two teams of small businesses to compete for contracts, implementing a training program, and building a website, executive director Bill Wahlig said. Those efforts will continue into the second year.

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There are currently 80 local businesses in the rail program, and Wahlig said he expects the number to increase to 250 as the program goes through its second year and expands beyond Long Island.

One of the events planned for the second year is a showcase that will allow small businesses and manufacturers to put their products before larger prime contractors and government officials, said Ken Bauer, chairman of the LI Rail Alliance.