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A Piano Playing Helicopter Pilot Crash Lands into Government Contracting
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Andrew “Andy” Harold, President, A. Harold and Associates (AHA) has grown from a one-man operation to a multi-million dollar business with over 260 employees in 13 years. AHA is a Service Disabled Veteran-Owned (SDVOB), 8(a)/Small Disadvantaged Business certified firm which provides training, logistics, support services, and construction products or solutions for government and other entities. Harold received his B.A. in Piano Performance from Oberlin College, but he couldn’t have guessed that his calling would be as a business owner at that time. He later served in the United States Navy as helicopter pilot after attending flight school. He was stationed in Jacksonville as part of his final tour of duty and eventually began to work for a defense contractor specializing in multimedia training for helicopters in 2001.
Harold started his own small business on the side in 2003 when the contract he was working on was set to expire. The business was awarded several smaller contracts including some City of Jacksonville. It was not until Harold was certified through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 8(a) Business Development Program in 2007 that his business started to really grow.
The 8(a) Business Development Program is a business assistance program for small disadvantaged businesses, designed to help them compete in the federal contracting arena. The 8(a) Program offers a broad scope of assistance to firms that are owned and controlled at least 51% by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. Visit the SBA website for more information on the 8(a) Business Development program.
As with any certification, it is still up to the program participant to market and position themselves to compete in the federal contracting arena. Harold worked closely with the SBA North Florida Office, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at UNF, the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) and other local resources such as the Beaver Street Enterprise Center to build relationships with federal agencies. AHA was awarded its first 8(a) contract after 8-months in the program for $800,000. Prior to the contract, Harold says the business only did about $100,000 of business in any given year.
It took one contract to catapult the fledging venture into a thriving business. Harold was then able to obtain a loan, establish credit, lease space, and start hiring his first few employees. Harold faced some challenges in growing the business because the company has 4 core service areas. He had to convince banks that he was going to be able to deliver on the contracts the company were awarded. He started with an SBA guaranteed 7(a) loan and then eventually was able to secure commercial loans. The 7(a) Loan Program, SBA’s most common loan program, includes financial help for businesses with special requirements. Visit the SBA website to learn more about the 7(a) Loan Program or other financing options available through the SBA.
Harold states that his ability to build long-term relationships and seek out opportunities is what has propelled him to be successful in the 8(a) programs. Harold recently graduated from the program, but was able to secure $100 million in viable long-term contracts for his company prior to his departure from the program. His largest contract prior to these awards was for $19 million in February of 2016, which resulted in the creation of 65 new jobs.
In addition to his role in growing his company, Harold has also taken an active role in helping other 8(a) companies grow as well. In 2011, Harold founded the Florida 8(a) Alliance, an Internal Revenue Service 501(c)3 accredited non-profit. The group aims to strengthen, train, educate and promote 8(a) and other small businesses in Florida. Harold currently serves as the Board Chairman for the organization, and works closely with Executive Director Stephanie M. Landing to continue to reach out to other 8(a) companies. Harold has also informally mentored other firms, and plans on participating in the mentor-protégé program in the near future. The Florida 8(a) Alliance has an existing Strategic Alliance Memorandum (SAM) with both SBA district offices in Florida.
As a result of his hard-work and dedication to the field of government contracting, Harold has been able to meet with both former SBA Administrator Karen Mills, and President Barack Obama. He represented small business owners during a meeting with the President in 2013. Harold continues to be a champion for the SBA and states “AHA would not be where it is today, if it were not for the opportunities we received as part of the 8(a) Business Development Program.”
Andy Harold, President of A. Harold and Associates, LLC could not have achieved so much success without the loving support of his wife Michelle and their 4 children. Harold may be contacted at (904) 535-2290 or firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting the company website at www.aha-llc.com. For more information on the SBA’s Programs and Services, please visit www.sba.gov/fl/north.