Projects at Kitsap Bases Create Small Business Opportunities

Original Article: Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal

To maintain and improve its bases and facilities in Kitsap County, the Navy awarded $662 million in construction contracts between 2012 and 2014. These contracts were for construction projects at the shipyard and Naval Hospital in Bremerton, the submarine base in Bangor, the fuel depot in Manchester, and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Keyport. While many of the contracts were awarded to companies from outside the county, they provide local businesses many excellent opportunities as subcontractors and suppliers. Knowing exactly which firms are being awarded the prime construction contracts enables local businesses to network and position themselves for future business opportunities.

In May 2012, the Navy awarded the $331 million construction contract for the new Explosives Handling Wharf at Bangor. It is part of a $715 million project that includes the new wharf, related facilities and mitigation of environmental impacts. It is one of the largest military construction projects undertaken and the largest in the county. The prime contractor, EHW Constructors of Virginia Beach, Virginia, is a joint venture consisting of Skanska USA, American Bridge Co. and the Nova Group, with work scheduled to be completed in January 2016.

Even a large joint venture such as EHW Constructors will not self-perform all the work on a large project such as the Bangor wharf, so there are subcontracting opportunities. Most prime contractors are interested in identifying qualified small businesses, not only for current projects, but also for the future when they bid on new work. With less than a year to go on the Explosives Handling Wharf, its likely that the number of subcontracting opportunities are not as great as when the project was in its beginning stages, but Skanska, American Bridge or Nova Group will probably bid on future work for the Navy. Among the EHW Constructors joint venture partners, Nova Group has responsibility for subcontracting and their website (www.novagrp.com/subcontracting/) provides contact information and current subcontracting opportunities. As a separate company, Nova Group was awarded another $25.4 million for waterfront projects at Naval Base Kitsap over the past three years.

Also between 2012 and 2014, the Navy awarded $46.2 million in construction contracts to Watts Constructor of Honolulu for work on Naval Base Kitsap. This includes a $9.3 million contract for construction of portions of the Integrated Water Treatment System at the shipyard, which will enable the Navy to meet mandated discharge limits on contaminants. Other work awarded is for pier pile repairs at a number of waterfront locations. Watt’s website, (www.wattsconstrucors.com) lists current projects where they are looking for subcontractors, including two in the Puget Sound region. While bidding will be closed before this column is published on these two specific projects — an airfield apron extension at Whidbey Island and fire station upgrades at Bremerton — firms interested in other subcontracting opportunities should periodically check the website.

Last year, Absher Construction of Puyallup was awarded a $25.1 million prime contract for energy efficiency upgrades on Naval Base Kitsap. They had previously done other projects on Kitsap bases including construction of a 150-unit, eight-story high-rise bachelor quarters and parking garage at Bremerton. Stephanie Caldwell, Absher’s small business program manager, said the company “is committed to identifying small business sources and ensuring that they are given opportunities to provide subcontract services, supplies and materials in support of Absher’s prime contracts.” She went on to say that subcontractors or suppliers that would be like to be considered by Absher should contact her directly, a clear indicator of the importance Absher, like many large businesses doing business with the Navy, assigns to meeting their subcontracting responsibilities. As in the case of other prime contractors, their website (www.absherco.com) provides points of contacts and current projects they are bidding, such as seismic upgrades to one of the large shops at the shipyard in Bremerton.

The list that follows includes many firms that have been awarded construction contracts for projects at Kitsap bases over the prior three years. The ones that are highlighted in blue are large businesses. When the Navy solicits contract proposals from large businesses, they require firms submitting bids to develop subcontracting plans that detail how they will maximize subcontracting opportunities for small businesses. The Navy considers the plans when making the decision to award contracts. After the contract is completed, the Navy assesses how well the prime contractor did meeting its small business subcontracting goals. These assessments are reviewed and considered before awarding future work.

The subcontracting plans the Navy requires include a description of how the prime will reach out to small businesses and identify potential subcontractors. To assist them in identifying qualified small businesses, large business websites generally include points of contacts and lists of opportunities they are currently bidding.
For example, Absher Construction’s bid room, which is accessed from their website, provides a brief description of the project and individual points of contact for each of the construction trades they are seeking.

The firms that are not highlighted on the list are themselves small businesses. To minimize the administrative burden placed on them, they are not required to develop detailed subcontracting plans with specific goals. There is, however, language in their contracts requiring them to maximize subcontracting opportunities for other small businesses. Since a small business can self-perform as little as 20 percent of the work on a construction contract and still be considered for small business set-aside contracts, there are ample subcontracting and teaming opportunities.

Looking for, identifying and networking with potential prime contractors for subcontracting opportunities can be daunting for a firm looking to the federal sector for the first time. The effort has been somewhat simplified by requiring large businesses to develop specific plans for subcontracting and outreach with specific small business goals. This incentivizes them to reach out and seek qualified small businesses as subcontractors, which results in more subcontracting opportunities for local small businesses.

 

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