Small projects + small businesses = big benefits

The work crew enters the Mount St. Helens' Spirit Lake Output Tunnel Jan. 11, 2016. The U.S. Forest Service, who owns the tunnel, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other local and state partners, completed interim tunnel repairs in 2016. (Photo by Jeffrey Henon, Public Affairs Office)

The work crew enters the Mount St. Helens’ Spirit Lake Output Tunnel Jan. 11, 2016. The U.S. Forest Service, who owns the tunnel, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other local and state partners, completed interim tunnel repairs in 2016. (Photo by Jeffrey Henon, Public Affairs Office)

 

By Michelle Helms, Public Affairs Office

Two small projects recently made big impacts in the Northwest: the Trestle Bay Ecosystem Restoration and the Spirit Lake Tunnel Repair projects.

Their impacts weren’t limited to accomplishing the projects’ goals – restoring environmental benefits and flood risk management. The projects were completed by two small businesses based in southwest Washington that were selected for the big benefits their expertise offered to both the Portland District and the regional economy.

“Small businesses help strengthen local communities’ economies,” said Carol McIntyre, deputy for Small Business for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District. “When the Corps awards a contract to a small, local business that business buys supplies, rents equipment, subcontracts to other businesses. They pay their employees who then pay rent, buy groceries, clothes.”

The two companies that worked on the Trestle Bay and Spirit Lake projects, LKE Corporation and Catworks, LLC, have worked on other Corps projects; they’re familiar with the government acquisition process, which, like many bureaucratic processes, has its nuances. This experience helps grow the businesses into larger enterprises.

A crane relocates a large jetty stone, Jan. 22, 2016. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce and other state and local partners worked together to create fish passages in the Trestle Bay jetty near Warrenton, Oregon. (Photo by Jeffrey Henon, Public Affairs Office)

A crane relocates a large jetty stone, Jan. 22, 2016. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce and other state and local partners worked together to create fish passages in the Trestle Bay jetty near Warrenton, Oregon. (Photo by Jeffrey Henon, Public Affairs Office)

“We review every contract requirement to see if there are strong candidates in the small business program who can perform the work or provide an item,” said Anna Peine, chief of Portland District’s Supply/Services Contracting section. “When we can nurture small businesses they become large businesses and in return they become valuable partners for meeting future government needs.”

Small business owners who want to compete for government contracts have an ally in the Corps, whose specialists can help them learn to navigate the labyrinth of rules and requirements that are the Federal Acquisition Regulations.

“The Corps needs businesses that provide everything from supplies and materials to construction services,” said McIntyre. “Small businesses have limited marketing resources; the small business office, with the contracting office and project team members, conducts market research, looking for those companies that have the services our projects are looking for. When we find them, we assist them through briefings and technical interviews on how to present those services most effectively.”

Market research isn’t limited to just finding the services projects need; for many Corps construction projects, the research team needs to find small businesses where the work is to be performed. Portland District’s projects aren’t typically found in large metropolitan areas; they’re on mountain tops, on the coast and on rivers several miles upstream from cities. The market research targets as much as possible, local businesses such as small construction companies, equipment rental, small environmental firms that can consult, support permitting, monitoring, etc.

New technologies, new methods and changing engineering needs require more than just finding these small businesses. It’s important for project teams and resource providers to meet and exchange information. Such meetings must be done in an environment that balances both parties’ needs while respecting fair contracting opportunities.

“Industry days offer a sanctioned environment where Corps employees can share their project challenges and needs with the business owners who may have solutions,” said McIntyre.

The events also allow the Corps to share unique details for upcoming projects that may require contractors to meet specific requirements, such as material quantities or qualities. For instance, the major rehabilitation of the jetties at the Mouth of the Columbia River is a huge project that will rely on sub contractors, including small business owners, to provide some of the materials such as the more than 500,000 tons of jetty stone.

“There’s a lot at stake for the Corps and for these businesses,” said Jerry Otto, project manager. “Our advertisement period is planned for 45 days, which may not be long enough to allow all potential quarries to gather the information they’ll need to compete.”

The extra time also gives potential sources time to apply for and receive the permits they’ll need before the Corps can evaluate the quality of the stone they produce to ensure it meets the design standard. Giving the industry advance notice of requirements gives them the opportunity to increase their competitiveness.

The Corps is serious about developing small businesses and maximizing the opportunities to take part in the federal procurement process. Outreach, networking and industry days all provide for a broad base of suppliers to support the mission and strengthen the nation’s economic development.

A business is considered small if it is:

  • one that is organized for profit
  • located as a place of business in the U.S.
  • operating primarily within the U.S. or making a significant contribution to the U.S. economy through payment of taxes or use of American products, materials or labor
  • independently owned and operated
  • not dominant in its field on a national basis

Source: www.sba.gov