A-Zone Environmental Service, LLC (A-Zone), a small woman-owned disadvantaged company, signed their first federal contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk District. A-Zone, based in Charles Town, W.Va., is a participant in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development Program. The company is owned by Adrienne Flores Morgan, a first generation born Hispanic American whose parents were raised in rural Venezuela and Argentina.
A signing recognition ceremony took place at the Eastern Panhandle Entrepreneurs Forum held at The Clarion Hotel & Conference Center in Shepherdstown on Thursday, Nov. 3., A-Zone President and CEO Adrienne Morgan, SBA’s West Virginia District Director Judy K. McCauley and Melissa Loder, business opportunity specialist for SBA in West Virginia, participated in the recognition ceremony.
The $4 million dollar sole-source contract was awarded for Environmental Remediation Services within the Norfolk District area of operation. Some of the services include, but are not limited to, environmental restoration, pollution prevention, erosion and sediment control, storm water and water reuse, energy management, and base support.
“A-Zone is a perfect example of how the SBA’s 8(a) business development is designed to function,” said McCauley. “The program provides opportunities for small companies such as A-Zone to develop business experience through the federal procurement process.”
“We were ecstatic to hear the news of our first 8(a) contract,” said Morgan. “We are excited by the prospect of providing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with solutions to help manage their environmental challenges. A-Zone looks forward to working on this contract and winning additional government contracts in the future.”
“The 8(a) program is an essential instrument for helping socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs gain access to the economic mainstream of American society,” said Loder. “This program has helped thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs gain a foothold in government contracting.”
Divided into two phases over nine years, certified companies advance from a four-year development stage to a five-year transitional stage. The program provides access to sole-source contracts, up to a ceiling of $4 million for goods and services and $6.5 million for manufacturing. While the 8(a) certification program helps firms build competitive and institutional know-how through sole-source contracts, the SBA also encourages participation in competitive contracts as well as commercial contracts.
A-Zone has operated since April of 2004 and provides services to private and government clients on sites across the country. The company specializes in environmental investigation, remediation, and site operations and maintenance. Recent projects have been completed in Davie, FL; Front Royal, VA; Millsboro, DE; and Ft. Belvoir, VA.
It has been said by small business owners many times and in various ways, but Richard Kerns, Chief Operating Officer for Troy, LLC in Harrisville, W.Va. is quite sincere when he stated, “In all honesty, we wouldn’t be here today without West Union Bank and the U.S. Small Business Administration.”
Troy is a manufacturer of non-woven needle punch textiles of which 85 percent of their business relies on the automotive industry. The company’s roots can be traced back to 1865 when they manufactured horse blankets, the prevalent mode of transportation at that time, which eventually shifted to automobiles in the 1920’s.
With their corporate headquarters based in Troy, NH, the company decided to build an 85,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Harrisville in 1974 to enhance their growing automotive production line. Once the facility was completed, business remained steady for Troy until the latter 1990’s. That is when the automotive industry started to experience a downturn which was enhanced by the September 11, 2001 disaster.
“Troy was in the process of moving their entire automotive division to Harrisville in 2001 when they decided to file bankruptcy and had no plans to restructure, basically just shut the doors and put the employees out in the street,” said Kerns. “Marty Ballen, our CEO, and I both worked for Troy at the time and made a decision to purchase the facility. Troy was one of the largest employers in Harrisville and several families depended on the company for their livelihood. So on March 15, 2002, with some help from Mountaineer Capital and the West Virginia Jobs Investment Trust, Troy, LLC was established.”
Business was good for Troy until late 2008 when the automotive industry started experiencing a serious decline.
“The year 2009 was probably the worst year Troy had financially,” said Kerns. “We made various changes and restructuring during the year which helped us get by, but when our financial partner decided to call our line of credit, things looked pretty bleak.”
That is when the SBA and West Union Bank came to the rescue.
“Richard contacted me early last fall and asked if there was anything West Union Bank could do to help,” said Ed Smith, Senior Vice President at the bank. “Being a small community bank and with Troy needing a fairly large line of credit, I knew we couldn’t help without significant assistance through some sort of guarantor.”
Smith then contacted the SBA’s West Virginia District Office and talked to Tom White, a lender relations specialist. White and Deputy Director David Manley met with the Smith and Kerns to discuss the situation and come up with viable options to save the company.
“We all recognized from the beginning this would be an uphill battle, but one worth fighting,” said Smith. “In light of the economic stimulus programs and the large financial bailouts the government was providing at the time, this was a real need in a real life situation.”
White worked closely with the bank to put together a line of credit through SBA’s CAPLine program under the agency’s flagship 7(a) loan program.
“Tom helped Richard and me throughout the entire loan process getting together the documentation needed for an SBA underwriting,” Smith said. “Without his hands-on knowledge of SBA’s loan process and the skill to direct us through the process, we wouldn’t have been able to save the company.”
White even served as the go between for West Union Bank and SBA’s Loan Guaranty Processing Center to resolve various underwriting issues.
Through the efforts of SBA and West Union Bank, on January 19, 2010, Troy received an SBA guaranteed revolving line of credit under the Contract CAPLine program which in essence saved the company from certain closure which would have dealt a significant economic blow to the local community.
Jay Reddy has lofty goals for his company. He not only wants to become the most successful small business in West Virginia, but be recognized as one of the best in the entire country as well. By the way, his company has been growing, it might not be very long until he attains that goal.
Reddy is owner and CEO of ProLogic Inc., a small disadvantaged, 8(a) business in Fairmont West Virginia that provides innovative information technology solutions for local, state and federal agencies as well as commercial clients. The company specializes in 3-D visualization, knowledge management, information technology support services and independent verification and validation services.
ProLogic started as a one-man operation in the West Virginia High Technology Consortiums incubator in 1995 and has grown to over 75 employees today. It has employees working on projects in 10 different states throughout the country.
“We’ve doubled in size last year and by 500 percent in the past five years,” said Reddy. “We’re marketing ourselves throughout the entire country and working on contracts as far west as Alaska. There’s no place we won’t go for work.”
Reddy credits the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 8(a) business development program for helping them grow.
“The assistance we have received from the SBA has helped us understand the federal contracting process and enables us to bid on and win government contracts,” continued Reddy. “The help and support we’ve received from West Virginia SBA employees has been outstanding.”
He also has a good understanding of how the 8(a) program works.
“8(a) certification by itself doesn’t get you contracts. You need to use it as an enabler” said Reddy. “You have to build up your company based on core competencies and not live on crutches. The 8(a) program gives you the tools you need to develop and grow, that’s what the program is all about.”
ProLogic relies heavily on contracting to the Federal Government. Most of their business is as a prime contractor for clients such as NASA, Air Force, Army, and others. In fact, 70 percent of their contracting work is as prime contractor with over 90 percent to government clients. During a 3-week period this year, ProLogic signed nearly $13 million in contracts.
Reddy, born in South India, attended Virginia Tech in the late 1980s and upon graduation found employment at a Huntington-based high-tech company that had an office in Fairmont. He then earned his master’s degree in business from West Virginia University.
Reddy knows that you can’t run and grow a successful company by yourself. That’s why he hires high profile, aggressive individuals that are extremely knowledgeable in the IT field.
“You have to invest in good, knowledgeable people that know the market,” said Reddy. “Good employees take the time to understand what it is the customer wants. Your strength and motivation should lay in your ability to solve the customer’s problem. Good work breeds more work.”
He’s also aware of the phrase of not putting all your eggs in one basket. “Diversification is another key to a successful business,” said Reddy. “You can’t depend on any one customer to make you successful. The more customers you have, the lower your risk profile.”
Reddy is also looking into other areas of the 8(a) program, such as the Mentor-Protégé program. He feels that the knowledge and understanding the company has in the contracting program will benefit other companies that are looking for help.
“Nobody ever got hurt by helping others,” said Reddy. “We’ve relied on assistance over the years to learn and grow and I feel we can help other companies do the same.”
If these companies follow the successful pattern Reddy has laid down, he might just have some stiff competition for the most successful company in the country.
For more information on the programs and services offered by the SBA, SBDC or SCORE, contact the West Virginia District Office at 304-623-5631 or via email at email@example.com, or visit their web site at www.sba.gov.
All SBA programs are extended to the public on a non-discriminatory basis.