Meet Kenneth Canty, the 2011 Minority Small Business Person of the Year for the Southeast region.
As a small business owner, Kenneth is no stranger to adversity. What sets him apart, however, is how he turned adversity into opportunity.
Kenneth is president and CEO of Freeland Construction Company, a Charleston, S.C. firm that specializes in renovation, rehabilitation and restoration projects. Kenneth took over the company in June 2008. Two months later, Freeland Construction lost its major customer, the Naval Weapons Station, when the Charleston area military facilities were consolidated into a joint base.
"This caused us to have to hit the road and find customers outside of Charleston," Kenneth said.
Building on a previous small contract Freeland had performed for the General Services Administration (GSA) in Charleston, Kenneth started networking with the GSA office in nearby Savannah, Ga. His efforts paid off, and Freeland successfully bid on GSA contracts in both Savannah and Athens, Ga. Soon, Freeland counted several southeastern GSA offices in as clients.
Kenneth also applied for the SBA’s nine-year 8(a) Business Development Program, which helps small disadvantaged firms access government and private procurement markets. In September 2008, Freeland Construction was accepted into the Program. Through the 8(a) Program, area federal procurement officers became acquainted with Freeland Construction’s qualifications. Soon, Freeland had new customers, including Shaw Air Force Base and the Army Corps of Engineers at Fort Jackson.
The 8(a) Program also introduced Kenneth to the SBA’s Business Opportunity Specialists (BOS), who provide contracting and management guidance to 8(a) firms. The BOS team at the South Carolina District Office has worked closely with Kenneth for the past three years, often helping him locate high-level procurement officers connected to projects that fit Freeland’s capabilities. In fall 2010, for example, Kenneth wanted to pursue a GSA renovation contract for the childcare center in the Columbia, S.C., federal building. The BOS team zeroed in on two GSA contracting officers, one in Charlotte and the other in Atlanta. Kenneth met with each and impressed both of them with his tenacity and his company’s abilities. Less than a month later, his company was awarded the contract. Freeland Construction successfully completed the childcare center in December 2011.
The South Carolina BOS team has also pinpointed potential Freeland Construction clients throughout the public and private sectors. In 2011, they advised Kenneth to approach the City of Savannah since Freeland had performed previous contracts in the Savannah area. Now, the City of Savannah is one of Freeland’s newest clients. The BOS team also recently referred Kenneth to the SBA’s main government contracting office in D.C., which connected him to a potential Amtrak project in Philadelphia.
With its expanding client base, Freeland’s sales have continually increased since 2009, and the company has grown from five to nine full-time employees. In September 2011, Kenneth was selected as the Southeastern Regional Minority Small Business Person of the Year based on his company’s growth, performance on government contracts and, of course, response to adversity.