The Norfolk District Small Business Program is among the top 10 in awarding contracts to Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses.
The district was seventh best throughout the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in this category, awarding nearly $19 million to SDVOSBs during fiscal year 2018.
According Cherie Kunze, Norfolk District’s deputy for small business programs, who is in charge of overseeing the district’s small business program, the award marks a district-wide effort.
“It’s nothing magical that I am doing -- it’s a collective team effort, I am only doing the collaboration,” Kunze said.
For both Kunze and Mike Darrow, the Norfolk District deputy district engineer for projects and program management, the honor is nice, but they point to the importance of the program’s purpose.
“One of the main goals of the Small Business Program is to increase the opportunity for competition it allows a wider pool of contractors to competitively bid and helps to drive down costs, which translates into a savings for the taxpayers,” Darrow said. “It also provides an opportunity for small businesses to grow and become successful larger businesses.”
Kunze says the district team consistently focuses on meeting stakeholder needs.
“The award is really the icing on the cake for meeting our annual (small business) goals, but it is successfully executing our mission to support the warfighter, the commonwealth of Virginia and local communities throughout the state that is our greater purpose,” she added.
"It is successfully executing our mission to support the warfighter, the commonwealth of Virginia and local communities throughout the state that is our greater purpose”Cherrie Kunze
Darrow is a big believer in the small business program, and even instituted a goal of awarding contracts to 10 new small businesses the district has never worked with before in order to grow the contractor pool.
“There was a time, just a few years ago, where we solicit for bids on a project and receive no bids,” he said.” Since we really started the push to meet with and educate small businesses about the opportunities we have for their business, we are now receiving multiple bids for similar projects that we had no bids on just a few years ago.”
Even though he has this goal of 10 new small businesses, Darrow stressed it really comes down to matching the right contractor with the right skill set and jobs.
“If there isn’t a match, there isn’t a match,” he said. “We will do the market research to see who is out there to meet the mission, and we will have a competitive process to get the right large or small business to do the work.”
Looking ahead, the district is working with North Atlantic Division and USACE Headquarters to set its annual goals for the Small Business Program. Kunze said the district will do its best to meet them, but she also points out there is no control in some aspects.
“Sometimes the size and scope of your overall program, just won’t allow you to hit the goals,” Kunze said. “A large project, with a high dollar amount, could come along and completely throw your yearly percentages off, which is ok -- because ultimately, we want to make our stakeholders happy with quality-built structures that are on-time and within budget – no matter who the contractor is.”
"We want to make our stakeholders happy with quality-built structures that are on-time and within budget – no matter who the contractor is."Mike Darrow
Kunze believes the district's culture, highlighting the program at every project review board and spreading awareness throughout the team -- from project managers to contract specialists -- is having the biggest impact in the small business arena. Helping make sure appropriately sized companies receive contract awards is a major part of the program's success. It also offsets the district's larger projects from throwing off the small-business award percentages.
“It is the support from the District Project Delivery Teams, and their being aware of the goals, and ultimately their support to try and reach those goals, which is why we are successful,” Kunze said.
For more information about the Norfolk District’s Small Business Program, visit www.nao.usace.army.mil/Business-With-Us/Small-Business/ .