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.

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