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Engineering Company Builds Business with SBA Program

Chella SubramSituation:

  • Chella Subram immigrated from India to the U.S. in 1992 to attend engineering graduate school in Wisconsin. After graduating, he took a consulting job in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2003, he opened Cornerstone Engineering, Inc. (CEI) in Louisville.
  • An engineering and design-build firm, CEI offers over 175 years of combined experience and has completed over 500 projects in 12 states. CEI core services include architectural and engineering design, CA, and special inspections for new above ground and below ground buildings and utilities, and assessments, restoration and strengthening for existing aging infrastructure. CEI specializes in modern strengthening technologies, including Carbon-Fiber and Glass-Fiber Reinforced Polymers (CFRP and GFRP), which has saved hundreds of hours of on-site-time and tens of millions of dollars on projects for the owners. 
  • The business is minority and family-owned (Chella Subram and spouse Gloria Manimuthu) and has offices in Louisville and Lexington, KY as well as Indianapolis, IN and Cincinnati, OH.

Solution - How the SBA helped:

  • Mr. Subram was able to navigate the certification process to increase revenue. In addition to being an SBA 8(a) certified company, CEI is a DBE, SBE and MBE and certified by the Tri-State Minority Supplier Development Council.
  • Although an SBA 8(a) firm for about five years, CEI had not obtained any federal contracts.
  • CEI team members were 2016 graduates of the Emerging Leaders Program and met Cherie Guilford, the SBA Kentucky Business Opportunity Specialist.
  • Ms. Guilford worked with the CEI team to help them understand the federal procurement process and which agencies might be best served by CEI’s expertise.

Successful Impact/Outcome:

  • Within a matter of months working with Ms. Guilford, CEI obtained its first 8(a) sole source two year contract with the Army Corps of Engineers. CEI performed very well in the first year per CPAR evaluations.
  • Also, Ms. Guilford is currently helping to identify a Mentor-Protégé’ partnership for CEI. 
  • CEI is working with the Kentucky SBDC “Grow Kentucky” Program, which mentors high potential companies and continues to obtain more government and private industry contracts.
  • CEI is teaming up with other companies to bid on larger contracts, and Mr. Subram wants to be a mentor once CEI graduates from the 8(a) program.
  • CEI recently received a Fast 100 Asian American Business Excellence Award by the U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce (USPAACC); is recognized as an Inc.-5,000 Company (#28th fastest growing engineering company in the U.S.); and received an award from the Society of American Military Engineers (S.A.M.E.).
  • The CEI owners are thankful for the opportunities and success. They believe strongly in giving back to their employees, community, and church. 


Company Name: 
Cornerstone Engineering, Inc.
Louisville, KY