COVID-19 relief options and additional resources

Government Contracting Opens Doors for Woman and Veteran-Owned Small Business

Mary Warren was a licensed mechanical engineer working for the Army’s engineering and construction branch when she decided that she wanted to start her own business. After her last assignment at Fort Drum in Jefferson County, New York, Warren recognized a market opportunity in the area.

“There wasn’t a lot of small businesses in the community. There is only a limited number of construction firms around here and none that are woman-owned and veteran-owned. So, I decided this was a nice opportunity,” Warren states.

In 2006, Warren left the government and opened her own firm – Black Horse Construction Group. The company name was inspired by her time serving in Afghanistan as a project engineer. Based out of Watertown, Black Horse Construction Group is a full service General Contracting firm which provides construction and construction management services.

Warren knew from the start that Black Horse Group would become a government contracting firm. “Federal contracting is where my comfort zone was. I was familiar with how the government administered construction contracts and I enjoy the level of projects that they normally contract out for,” she states. “With my engineering background, this was just a normal path.”

In 2013, Warren began the process of becoming a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Certified 8(a) company. The SBA’s 8(a) business-development program helps provide a level playing field for small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged entities. 8(a) certified companies can compete for set-aside and sole-source contracts, form joint ventures with established businesses, and receive management and technical assistance.

Black Horse Group is going into their eighth year of being 8(a) certified. The certification itself is good for a maximum of nine years. “Once I was in the program, it was very beneficial to me,” Warren comments. “It’s a really good door opener and helped me to grow the business in the first few years. The 8(a) certification has given me opportunities for projects in different areas with other clients.”

The business took on a slow, steady growth from the start. “Sometimes businesses can bite off more than they can chew,” says Warren. “Most of the work I started out with was at Fort Drum and then I started working a little bit with New York State and dipped my feet into that market. It was just a progression of taking on different projects in different locations.”

As an 8(a) certified contracting firm, Black Horse Construction Group has been able to procure contracts with different federal entities such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command North Atlantic Division, the U.S. Air Force Reserve and the U.S. General Services Administration.

Black Horse Group now services all over the Northeast, including New York, Maine, Delaware, Rhode Island, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. The businesses project sizes range from $100,000 to $25 million in a variety of industries.


(Disclaimer: The SBA does not endorse the organizations sponsoring linked websites and does not endorse the views they express or the products/services they offer.)

8(a) Business Development Program

To help provide a level playing field for small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged people or entities, the government limits competition for certain contracts to businesses that participate in the 8(a) Business Development program.