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Posted 1/14/2014

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By Erica Skolte

"Small business is everyone's business." That is Beth Myers’ motto, and the philosophy she truly believes, lives and works by. As the deputy for the Small Business Programs Office, she knows that it is important for every member of Jacksonville District to understand and support the small business mission. Though she works with contractors and small businesses, one of Myers’ main jobs is to educate the district team. “It takes an entire team to work this program, not just my office,” she said.

Though much of its work is done behind the scenes, the Small Business Programs Office plays an important role in achieving most of Jacksonville District’s missions. It is involved in all contracts, regardless if they are awarded to a small or large business, so the support of the Small Business Programs Office is crucial to the functioning of the Contracting, Construction and Operations Divisions.

In fiscal year 2013, Jacksonville District awarded 239 contracts to small business firms and 357 contracts to all businesses, and the Small Business Programs Office had a hand in all of them. Before solicitations for contracts are advertised, Myers must concur that the strategy is in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).

Small Business supports the Jacksonville District team by reviewing and evaluating sub-contracting plans and small business utilization plans. It also serves as a liaison between the district and the Small Business Administration, and represents the views of the Small Business Office, the contracting officer and the district when explaining concerns.

“We work hard to make smart decisions that further the overall execution goals and don't just further the goals of small business and lose sight of the big picture,” said Myers. “But we always make sure that small business is represented and their voice is heard in multiple forums, including acquisition strategy meetings, project delivery team meetings, project review board meetings, corporate staff meetings or other meetings.”

“FAR tells us that we must consider small business first. That’s where Beth comes in,” said contract specialist Beau Corbett. “She helps us to understand how we are to consider small business. It is our responsibility to know FAR, but we rely on Beth as our expert.

“The world is very dynamic, and laws are constantly changing. It can be very confusing. It helps to have someone like Beth to help interpret the laws and navigate the constantly changing small business laws.”

Myers serves both internal and external customers - fellow Corps employees and members of the public, each with very different needs.

“Beth understands both sets of needs. She adds a human side I really appreciate, and I think a lot of others do too,” said Corbett. “I am the point of contact for many solicitations on our website, and when someone calls with a question, I always give them Beth’s contact information. I feel confident that when they call Beth, they will get the right answer. I have [received] a lot of feedback from small business [representatives] who have been very satisfied with the assistance that Beth has provided to them.”

Jacksonville District does business with qualified small, small disadvantaged, Historically Underutilized Business Zone, veteran-owned, service-disabled veteran-owned and woman-owned businesses. The Small Business Programs Office promotes contract awards to small businesses in a variety of ways:  it sets aside work for small business firms when possible, educates and counsels small business firms about how to work with the Corps, participates in outreach events and holds pre-proposal conferences.

Large Corps projects also represent opportunities for small businesses. A recent award for the Miami Harbor deepening project could bring as much as $37 million in sub-contracting opportunities to small business firms.

One of Jacksonville District’s largest ongoing projects is the rehabilitation of Herbert Hoover Dike (HHD) around Lake Okeechobee. From fiscal year 2011 through 2013, Jacksonville District executed construction contracts for HHD valued at $230 million. Although this sum represents prime contracting dollars to large firms, the small business sub-contracting opportunities are significant, considering almost 30 percent of those dollars have and will go to small business firms.

“All of our contractors are supported by the Small Business Programs Office,” said Ingrid Bon, forward project manager for the HHD project. “This year, there has been a lot of construction activity around Herbert Hoover Dike. Currently, we have several active culvert replacement or repair construction projects: Culverts 11 and 16, Culverts 10 and 12, Culverts 8 and 13, Culverts 5 and 5A, Culverts 3 and 4A, Culverts 1 and 1A and the Seepage Management Test Facility.”

Many opportunities exist at HHD for small business firms, including environmental work, hauling, site work, sheet pile construction, clearing and grubbing, materials testing, electrical, diving services, pile driving, dewatering and surveying – to name a few.

“We are planning to rehabilitate four more culverts at Herbert Hoover Dike in 2014,” said Myers. “Due to the size of these projects, they will be unrestricted acquisitions, but they will still provide plenty of small business subcontracting opportunities.”

There are also plans to award additional surveying contracts, and at least one of those will be set aside for Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses. Also planned is the first contracting tool for invasive plant management.

Though there is much to look forward to in the future, there were many successful contract awards in 2013. The Wares Creek Flood Control project included three phases, which were all awarded to small business firms. Phase I – Dredging, awarded in 2011, was successfully completed by an 8(a) small business firm; Phase II - Sheet Pile Construction was competitively awarded to an 8(a) small business firm and Phase III - Channel Widening was awarded to a small business firm at the end of fiscal year 2013. The purpose of this project is to reduce flood risk and related issues within the Cedar Hammock-Wares Creek basin near Bradenton in Manatee County, on the west coast of Florida.

A $10 million contract for quality assurance services in Puerto Rico was awarded to a local Puerto Rican firm. Working to educate small local businesses about the federal contracting process not only helps the local economy, but it also expands the industrial base of qualified firms that the Corps can drawn upon to execute missions in Puerto Rico.

All of the district’s work at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station for sustainment, restoration and modernization has been accomplished by 8(a) small business firms.

Small businesses are often able to provide solutions to specific problems that arise during the execution of the district’s many missions. Myers says that small business firms are widely known as important sources of innovation and believes that it is important to help develop those small businesses. For example, the air frames and payloads for the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were designed by two University of Florida students who went on to a form a small business. The company now employs more than 30 people and they have a major contract with the U.S. Army.

They got their start when the Corps needed a contractor to provide a UAV with strict design specifications. To be useful in rainy south Florida, it had to be sealed and waterproof, but still able to dissipate heat so that the delicate electronics in the payload would not be destroyed. The ability to hand-launch from land, water and swamp buggy was also crucial, since there are no long runways or landing strips near the flight locations.

“The UAV, built to our design specifications, gives us the capability to do things that others cannot do,” said Larry Taylor, biologist, who is the UAV coordinator in the Multi- Projects Branch of Operations Division. The Corps uses the UAVs for various operations, including monitoring invasive species, beach erosion, the structural condition of levees and canal banks and for conducting biological investigations and wildlife census.

The Small Business Programs Office used a variety of outreach strategies in 2013. Myers participated in ten outreach events, and spoke at eight of them. Four of these events were pre-proposal conferences for important projects.

Myers spoke to nearly 100 members of the local Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) at an April luncheon in Jacksonville, discussing upcoming district activities and opportunities for small business contractors. In November, she joined senior leaders and contracting personnel at the SAME 2013 Small Business Conference for Federal Engineering, Construction and Environmental Programs in Kansas City, Mo.

In addition, Myers met and counseled with 19 small business firms, arranged and participated in eight small business capability briefings, and kept the fiscal year 2013 acquisition forecast updated and available to the public on the district website.  

Myers participated in five pre-proposal meetings and provided briefings on small business participation evaluation factors. There were two meetings for the rehabilitation of HHD culverts and others for the Miller Pump Station, part of the Picayune Strand Restoration Project near Naples in southwest Florida, Miami Harbor deepening and the Tampa Harbor Dredged Material Disposal Facility.

“Our pre-proposal meetings are one of the things I am most proud of,” said Myers. “Businesses both big and small can learn about our upcoming projects, government contracting and our small business program. It’s also a great opportunity for them to network.

“We must support small business. It’s the economic engine of the United States,” said Myers. “Even if you buy something at a big box store, it is likely that a small business was involved in some way, whether it was the creation of the product, fabrication of a part, the delivery of the product, or in some other way.”

award business construction contract contractor Jacksonville District SBO small business small business office subcontractor U.S. Army Corps of Engineers USACE