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SBA Recovery Programs Assist Engineering Firm Through Pandemic


  • Chella Subram immigrated from India to the U.S. in 1992 to attend engineering graduate school. After graduation, he took a consulting job in Louisville, KY. Later, he opened Cornerstone Engineering, Inc. in Louisville.
  • An engineering and design-build firm, CEI offers over 175 years of combined experience and has completed over 500 projects in more than 12 states. CEI core services include architectural and engineering design.
  • The company also focuses on special inspections for new above ground and below ground buildings and utilities, 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 by Chella Subram and spouse Gloria Manimuthu.

Solution: How the SBA helped

  • CEI navigated the SBA 8(a) Business Development Program certification process to increase revenue.
  • Although an SBA 8(a) firm for about five years, the company had not obtained any federal contracts.
  • CEI team members, 2016 graduates of the Emerging Leaders Program, met Cherie Guilford, the SBA Kentucky Business Opportunity Specialist at that time.
  • 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.
  • When COVID-19 struck, Cornerstone immediately applied for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loan. They received a PPP First Draw in 2020 and a Second Draw PPP in early 2021.

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.
  • Ms. Guilford is currently helping to identify a Mentor-Protégé partnership for the business. 
  • CEI leadership has worked with the Kentucky SBDC “Grow Kentucky” high growth potential program, assisting them in obtaining more government and private industry contracts.
  • The company is teaming up with other firms to bid on larger contracts, and Mr. Subram wants to be a mentor once CEI graduates from the 8(a) program.
  • Cornerstone has been recognized regionally and nationally, named to the Asian American Fast 100 list two years in a row and Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies in the U.S, also for two consecutive years.
  • Cornerstone is also certified as Minority-owned, Disadvantaged and Small Business Enterprise (MBE, DBE, & SBE) by the Tri-State Minority Supplier Development Council.
  • The company has expanded to six offices: Louisville and Lexington, KY; Nashville, TN; Indianapolis, IN; Cincinnati, OH and Phoenix, AZ.
  • 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
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