Front Page of El Paso, Inc –
Robby Gray, Staff Writer
An Oklahoma-based contractor recently finished the first of four innovative dining facilities it’s building on Fort Bliss, part of a $4 billion expansion the post will see over the next several years.
According to Eddie Scott, owner and president of SGS, LLC, the company has ongoing projects in five states. But they’re doing the bulk of their work on Fort Bliss for the next year or two. “There is a huge influx of work and opportunity in El Paso,” he said. “We saw it as not only an opportunity, but we felt we could also be successful hiring good local people.”
Last month, SGS was awarded an $11.8 million contract to build a combat aviation brigade complex and enlisted personnel dining facility for Brigade Combat Team 3. The company’s largest job is a $25 million contract at Fort Polk in Louisiana, but “our largest group of contracts is here at Fort Bliss,” Scott said.
Working with local people, Scott said, is not only better economically for the regions they work in, but also part of what has made SGS successful. “Our commitment has really been to use local labor, local subcontractors and local suppliers and we’ve really been very successful in doing that,” Scott said, “It really serves us well to work with local subs and local labor forces, and the money stays here so we become more a part of the local community.
For the just-completed Brigade Combat Team Complex, Scott said, the food service equipment and the design for the 30,000 square-foot building came from outside Texas. But all the construction was done by local staffers and subcontractors. The company has paid about $750,000 in payroll “just to our local people,” Scott said.
El Pasoan Frank Cuevas is SGS’s project manager for the dining facility project. He has worked on various Fort Bliss projects for ten years. Cuevas said he has worked with other contractors but particularly likes working for SGS because of the “liberty they give their employees to make on the spot decisions” which, he said, helped him get the job done on schedule. It has allowed him to use his local knowledge and work with people with whom he has already developed relationships. “They trust their people to do the right thing,” he said.
There are advantages to working with the government, Scott said. “Working for the government, while it is more difficult and a lot more regulated, at least you have pretty good assurance that you are going to get paid,” Scott said. The market for government contracts remains vibrant. Scott said his company grew 50 percent this year and he projects the company will continue to grow next year.
“There’s a lot of government contracts particularly with the Department of Defense and with all the hurricane work that has been generated, not only from the most recent hurricane, but even two or three years ago with Katrina,” Scott said. “There’s been along the Texas, Gulf Coast area lots and lots of work. More than the local firms can possibly handle.”
Still, Scott said, the bidding process is competitive. They usually win about 25 percent of the contracts they bid on. “There’s a big difference between doing business with the government and being successful,” Scott said. Contracting with the government, he said, requires an expansive knowledge of government regulation.
“Basically, everything for the government is a lot more detailed, a lot more involved,” Scott said. “Everything from our administrative plans through the quality control program, scheduling programs, and job site safety has to adhere to very specific requirements.”
Scott said his company has been able to handle the administrative load even though the company is small – about 100 employees total – because he built the management structure of his company to unsure that there are very specialized people in positions of responsibility. The company has on staff schedulers, estimators, project managers and a business development staff. “To be successful you have to have the experience and expertise to meet the standards that the government establishes,” Scott said.
“The Corps of Engineers is our main client and they have some pretty strict standards, and if you’re not prepared both from a staff and resources standpoint to work with the government, then you are probably not going to be very successful.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ safety manual, EM-385, Cuevas said is about three or four inches thick. Part of his job is to insure that they abide by the regulations. I have little tabs all over the place,” he said.
Scott is Cherokee Indian and, as a Native American-owned firm, SGS is certified b y the Small Business Administration as a Small Disadvantaged Business and a Historically Underutilized Business Zone firm. “That has opened some doors for us and created opportunities for getting government contracts,” Scott said. The designations allow the company to bid for government jobs that are set-aside strictly for HUBZone firms, Scott said.
The dining facility project is a designated HUBZone project. “That’s why we pursued this one,” Scott said. “It’s the government’s effort to distribute government dollars into places that normally wouldn’t get government dollars.”
The second dining facility is about 40 percent done, and Scott said he plans to continue working in El Paso. “We have other projects on the radar screen here in El Paso that we are looking at,” he said.