The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, is a large federal agency with 500+ staff, a budget of approximately $860 million, and multiple missions serving over 20 million people. But size does not preclude helping smaller entities, namely, small businesses — women-owned, Veteran-owned, service-disabled Veteran-owned, and Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) Zones (a Small Business Administration (SBA) program helping businesses in urban and rural communities access federal procurement opportunities.)
NEW JERSEY PRESENTATION
To that end, Gregory Cuyjet, deputy for small business, runs the New York District’s Small Business Office. In winter 2015, he delivered a presentation to a group of small business owners in Union, New Jersey, at a conference sponsored by the Union County Economic Development Corporation (UCEDC), a nonprofit assisting businesses that have been traditionally underserved, and the parent agency of the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) that provides free counseling and workshops to help businesses determine how to best market and sell their products and services. His presentation, “Selling to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” provided a wealth of information about the federal procurement process and how entrepreneurs can bid on and win contracting and subcontracting opportunities with the Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies.
“I was pleased to meet with small business owners in New York and New Jersey,” commented Mr. Cuyjet, a presenter at the conference for a number of years. “Helping small businesses more equitably participate in the federal contracting process is an important District mission that supports a diverse, healthy economy.”
A detailed PowerPoint presentation outlined the following: Requirements to bid on government contracts; a walk-through of www.fedbizopps.gov, a Web site listing many Corps of Engineers’ and federal contracts; an overview of New York District operations; and sample contracts awarded to small business. Mr. Cuyjet discussed two District initiatives illustrating the Corps’ need to purchase vast amounts of goods and services: building a new barracks at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY, and repairing engineered beaches along the New York and New Jersey coast damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Attendees received a copy of the presentation and a list of upcoming Corps of Engineers’ acquisitions. Events concluded with questions and answers and participants meeting with Mr. Cuyjet individually.
WORKING DIRECTLY WITH SMALL BUSINESS
One example of the District’s work with small business involves small-scale dredging projects such as navigation channels and rock repairs for jetties. Randall Hintz, chief, Operations Division Support Branch, explained that Hurricane Sandy — and subsequent federal funding — created many opportunities for small business to work with the Corps of Engineers. During the past year, New York has worked with five small dredging and construction firms, two still under contract in spring 2015.
Hintz said working with more small businesses results in greater competition for project bids, often increasing quality. Small business has worked on projects in Jamaica Bay and East Rockaway Inlet in Queens, NY. All told, the District manages a portfolio of 82 navigation projects in the Port of New York and New Jersey, Long Island, Northern New Jersey, the Hudson Valley, and Lake Champlain in upstate New York.
New York also counsels small business. On a number of occasions, Operations and Contracting Divisions have met with contractors in Lower Manhattan to discuss project details and provide information about the federal contracting process, which can be daunting for small firms. In addition, Hintz said he and others have met with small contractors on site during the solicitation process to provide prospective bidders a better understanding of what a project entails. “We want them [small business] to succeed,” said Hintz, adding, “there have been many successful outcomes with small business contractors working with the New York District.”
A BROADER MISSION
Beyond public engagement, the District’s Small Business Office manages acquisition plans and strategies, expediting contracts, and attending national and regional conferences. Cuyjet works with the SBA to develop and disseminate annual small business goals that include setting aside a percentage of procurements for small businesses to bid on. For fiscal 2015, the goal is for the District to set aside 23 percent of projects for small business. (Federal regulations require large businesses bidding on awards exceeding $650,000 ($1.5 million construction) to submit a Small Business Subcontracting Plan with goals and a plan for meeting them.
Market research is another area of importance, ensuring companies have the requisite experience and expertise to do the work, providing good stewardship of taxpayer’ money. Research is conducted by the District’s Contracting Division, along with technical and project management personnel and SBA Procurement Center staff to help structure contracts, support decisions for non-competitive actions, and identify price changes in industry and materials. At District headquarters in Lower Manhattan, upon request, Cuyjet meets with small businesses interested in working on civil works and military projects. Advocacy is provided to businesses at all stages — start-up, growing, established — and ensuring small business receives a fair amount of Department of Defense contract awards.
A full discussion of the federal contracting process is beyond the scope of this article. Consult these resources to learn more:
● Small Business HUBZone Program
● New Jersey Union County Economic Development Corporation
● New Jersey Procurement Technical Assistance Center