Thursday, November 30, 2017

National Entrepreneurship Month


As I discussed yesterday, the President declared November National Entrepreneurship Month. Today we are featuring Linc Research, Inc., a HUBZone company that is currently doing great work with NASA!

Linc Research, Inc.

What is your company doing to support the surrounding HUBZone community?

To be a successful and sustainable HUBZone (HZ) business you really must be about the "HUBZone" just as much as the "Business".

Regarding the “Business” piece, Linc with two other HUBZone companies started an initiative called Workforce NOW. The Workforce NOW mission is about giving hope, vision and tools to our HZ communities to focus on a career and to improve their lives. We believe the pathway out of these HZ communities is enabled with a good career. We target our local HZ community through venues such as Government project housing, non-profits and churches. We also partner with organizations such as NASA, Large Primes, Veterans Affairs, Public Library and Still Serving Veterans. In addition, we recently helped to stand up a new organization called the HUBZone Accelerator (HZA). The HZA is concerned with the business mission of HZ companies such as small business training; a database for Primes and Federal procurement officials; and a RFI/Sources Sought Center to make it easier for multiple HZs to respond. One of the HZA main missions is to emphasize the technical and engineering capabilities of HZ companies. Also, in the name of advocacy, we are collecting the great community stories to show the impact of HZ companies working and locating in the community.

Regarding the “HUBZone” piece, Linc started a 5th Grade Space Art contest for local Title I schools. The students create art to show how they view people traveling or living in space. In addition, we are working with a local non-profit to stand up a program called Safe Solutions, one of the objectives is to replace predatory loans with a bank based payment system and very low interest rates along with financial education.

What benefits or challenges have you seen in hiring from a HUBZone area?

Benefits

·       We are advocating, operating and living as a HZ company because we believe the HZ Program is the best government program to increase career opportunities for people now and increase career paths for their children. The interest in our work helps us to create our HZ talent pipeline. This approach in itself does not yield contract work, but it is one answer to the question of “How are you going to keep your HZ certification?”

·       The SBA HZ program is set up so that small businesses do the work of creating interest in careers outside of what is normally seen in these neighborhoods.

·       This population is largely untapped and the people who live here have great potential for contributing to our nation. A few dollars in the HZ is worth more than a few dollars most anywhere else.

·       As stated before, our approach to the community enables us to create a pipeline of HZ talent pipeline. A HZ business must have as a minimum 35% of their employees living in a HZ area. One such approach is a partnership with a local HBCU to provide Linc HZ interns on a rotating basis. It gives valuable hard and soft skills to interns in their senior year.

Challenges

·       Even though we have personally worked in inner city programs you can’t really understand what under-resourced means until you daily operate there. Linc does see first hand what that means for our employees; e.g., just because someone gets a good job doesn’t mean they have transportation to work or have childcare from 8 to 5.

·       The social network in the HZ is not interlaced very well so getting the message out (e.g.; Workforce NOW or career openings) to people that are not at a University or are not in the mainstream of the community is a challenge.

·       You know from day one that your overhead costs are automatically higher than other non-HZ companies.

·       HZ approved areas are not currently stabilized due to changing demographics; therefore, you run a great financial and certification risk that residences and main office buildings may at any time fall out of certification due to a redesignation of the HZ approved area. Legislation is in work and has been approved by Congress to stabilize HZ tract designations for five years.

What are the challenges you face in keeping your HUBZone certification?

·       People can move at any time out of the HZ designated tracts. Examples of this are (1) an employee decides to move back home with family and the move is this coming weekend and (2) an employee improves their financial condition due to successful work at Linc and can now move out of the HZ to a house in the county.

·       Being involved and present where your employees live.

·       Remembering to not continually reinvent the wheel. Our model from day one was to work with successful organizations already in place and serving the HZ community.

How do you track employee residences in order to comply with the HUBZone certification?

·       Initial and annual review of residences and other HZ records like driver’s licenses, rental agreements and utility bills. We already have relationships with many of our employees before we hire them, but some others not so much. We have had an example where a residence doesn’t appear on the SBA HUBZone map due to the road not being shown. We must go to something like Google Maps and document where the address is in the HZ area. The Linc President has personally driven to unfamiliar addresses in the past.

·       Monthly audit of HUBZone employees of hours worked and a forecast of whether they are changing residences.

·       A written communication from the Linc President to ask that HZ employees give Linc as much notice as possible if they are planning a move.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

National Entrepreneurship Month


Earlier this month, the President declared November National Entrepreneurship Month. At NASA, our small business entrepreneurs are the backbone to the Agency’s mission. We took the time to speak to two of our Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) partners to find out how they are supporting their community and paving the way for new entrepreneurs while doing important work, creating jobs and driving America forward. The first company, Summit Technologies & Solutions, Inc. is featured below. Stay tuned for part two later this week.

Summit Technologies & Solutions, Inc.

What is your company doing to support the surrounding HUBZone community?
We support the HUBZone communities in which our employees reside in several ways.  Wherever possible, we patronize the various businesses located within the HUBZones in which we operate.  We support the HUBZone Council and other organizations that advocate for both the HUBZone program and the communities which we serve.  Most importantly, Summit subsidizes, encourages, and supports employees who donate money to and volunteer for charities.

What benefits or challenges have you seen in hiring from a HUBZone area?
The benefits we have seen include the diversity and enthusiasm brought to the work place by our HUBZone employees.  In addition, the appreciation of our HUBZone employees shines through as many of them could not make ends meet without the additional income they earn from working for Summit.  Being a part of improving the lives of those most in need provides a sense of pride and satisfaction that is hard to quantify in words. The challenges we have seen include finding people who could most use the benefits the HUBZone program provides, supporting training and employment efforts, and encouraging employees to live, work, and help these HUBZone areas improve economically. 

What are the challenges you face in keeping your HUBZone certification?
Because of our involvement in the HUBZone communities we are a part of, we do not run into the typical challenges that other companies might experience.  We have a large database of HUBZone employees and our current HUBZone employees are our best marketing and recruiting tool for other qualified HUBZone employees through their efforts.  One challenge that is always present is remaining cost competitive while still keeping the 35% HUBZone requirement. 

How do you track employee residences in order to comply with the HUBZone certification?
Summit has strict policies and procedures in place to ensure compliance with the HUBZone certification requirements at all times.  These policies include regular review of the current HUBZone maps, continual verification of employee status, and close monitoring of changes to the regulations governing HUBZone companies.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

FY16 Small Business Administrator's Cup Award


Earlier this week, Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot and I traveled to Stennis Space Center, (SSC) located near Bay Saint Louis Mississippi to present the FY16 NASA Small Business Administrator’s Cup Award. This award has been presented to the NASA center that has the best overall agency small business program yearly since 2008. SSC also received this prestige award previously in 2011.

NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot (l) and Associate Administrator of the Office of Small Business Programs Glenn Delgado (r) present the 2016 NASA Small Business Administrator’s Cup for small business excellence to Stennis Director Rick Gilbrech during a site visit May 17. Credits: NASA/SSC
In FY2016, Stennis’s team strongly supported the agency’s effort to promote and better integrate all small businesses into the competitive base of NASA contractors, leading to its most successful overall year on record with regard to the percentage of small business awards. Stennis increased in all small business subcategories and went from meeting two small business goals in FY15 to all five in FY16, making it one of only two NASA centers to meet all federally mandated small business goals.

I’d like to recognize Mr. Robert Watts, who, while acting as the Stennis small business specialist, earned the FY16 Small Business Specialist of the Year Award. SSC is only the second center to have both the reigning Small Business Specialist of the Year as well as the Small Business Administrator’s Cup. This is in no small part due to the efforts of SSC Center Director Dr. Richard J. Gilbrech, Procurement Officer Mr. Robert Harris, and all the technical and acquisition personnel at SSC.  

Participants in the presentation of the 2016 NASA Small Business Administrator’s Cup on May 17 included Stennis Office of Procurement Director Rob Harris (l) and former Stennis Small Business Specialist Robert Watts. Watts received the NASA Small Business Specialist of the Year award earlier this spring for his work at Stennis. He recently accepted a position at Johnson Space Center. Credits: NASA/SSC
Congratulations to all those at the Stennis Space Center who contributed to this well-deserved honor and for the outstanding achievements they accomplished during FY-16.   

Monday, May 1, 2017

NASA Celebrates National Small Business Week

NASA is excited to celebrate National Small Business Week April 30-May 6, 2017. This event recognizes the contributions that small business owners across the country make daily. At NASA, we are marking the event in a big way. It’s no surprise that we here in the Office of Small Business Programs fully support our small business partners and work hard to ensure the small businesses in our industrial base are competitive. Please take a moment to view Acting Administrator Robert M. Lightfoot’s video supporting National Small Business Week:


More information about our remarkable Small Business Advocate and Small Business Industry winners can be found at https://osbp.nasa.gov/award.html.

To amplify Mr. Lightfoot’s message, the NASA Office of Small Business Programs, in collaboration with the Technology Transfer Program and the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program, will be featuring the immeasurable impact small businesses have at NASA in a display in the West Lobby of NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC throughout the month of May.

If you’re in the area, I hope you will stop by and take a look at let us know what you think via our Twitter @NASA_OSBP or Facebook @NASASmallBusiness accounts.

I hope you will take time this week to join us in supporting your local small businesses!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Happy New Year from NASA OSBP

This year will bring unique challenges to the NASA Office of Small Business Programs, including the ongoing administration transition. While we are prepared to carry on serving the NASA small business community and the incoming leadership, I’d like to take a moment to thank former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. Since 2009, his recognition of the contributions that small businesses make to NASA has allowed us to grow our small business base and achieve critical mission successes. Both the agency and I will miss his steadfast leadership and we wish him nothing but the best moving forward.
We are ready to face the challenges of 2017 head on. It currently appears that NASA surpassed our negotiated FY16 Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB) goal; however, we will fall short of achieving the statutory goals for Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone), Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB), Service-Disabled Veteran–Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), and overall Small Business goal. 
In an effort to achieve these goals in the future, NASA developed a Small Business Improvement Plan for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. Moving forward, we will continue to focus on the following initiatives:
1. Advocacy:  Promote small business programs through advocacy and collaborative efforts with internal and external partners/stakeholders.
2. Outreach:  Promote small business awareness and participation, utilizing innovative techniques at non-traditional venues in geographically targeted areas, to enhance all categories of small business.
3. Small Business Sub-Category Improvement:  Improve Agency performance in small business subcategories by identifying, increasing, and promoting small business prime contracting opportunities.
In addition to the above initiatives, we will continue to discover innovative ways of reaching our small business base. A prime example is our ongoing HBCU/MSI Technology Infusion Road Tour with the NASA Office of Education and the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). The Road Show is designed to assist educational institutions integrate new technology that supports the Agency’s mission while aiding NASA in making and exceeding our 1% goal for Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Minority Serving Institution. I was excited to attend our first successful Road Show stop of the year last week at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
We will look back on 2016 with fond memories and face 2017 with determination. Happy New Year from all of us here at the NASA Office of Small Business Programs. We look forward to working with you.