Joint Base Andrews has stepped up its local contracting over the past year, but Prince George’s companies want to see more consideration.
Contracts to the county’s businesses accounted for 43 percent of all Maryland contracts awarded by the base in fiscal 2011, up from 24 percent in fiscal 2010, according to recently released figures.
The total going to Prince George’s companies climbed 60.3 percent, to $12.5 million from $7.8 million the previous year, even as the total of Maryland contracts slid to $28.9 million from $32.8 million.
Andrews provides a local economic impact of more than $1 billion, according to base information.
The 20 percent increase in local contracts came about in part through business-participation events such as small-business conferences at the Camp Springs military base and efforts by the Andrews Business and Community Alliance and the county government, said Maj. Christopher Kay, commander of the 11th Wing Contracting Squadron. Kay spoke Nov. 10 during the 2011 Small Business Summit hosted by Andrews.
More than 100 businesses attended the conference.
"This is absolute results," Kay said, adding that the contracting squadron will continue to strive for local contracting even as the base faces impending budget and personnel cuts.
But contracts for many projects, such as the $120 million runway replacement at the base, continue to slip through the cracks without allowing for local participation, said M.H. Jim Estepp, CEO and president of both the Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable and the Andrews Business and Community Alliance.
Estepp pointed out that other bases have strict proximity/response time requirements written into their contracts, which encourage more local participation.
He said Andrews’ lack of this requirement is the crux of the local impact issues.
Lynnie Long of Welsh Rushie, a mechanical construction company in Upper Marlboro, called for a separate community business consideration. Air Force officials said the base cannot adopt those types of requirements.
“The way to keep it in the community is for you guys to bid and get better at it,” said Elizabeth Hair, deputy of Air Force District of Washington Contracting. The District of Washington, which also has offices at Andrews, failed to meet its small-business goals this year, unlike Andrews.
Andrews spent $65 million — 51 percent — on small-business contracts in fiscal 2011, surpassing its goal of 50 percent. Andrews also exceeded its goals in other contract areas, including small disadvantaged business contracts at 25 percent, compared with a 14.4 percent goal; women-owned business contracts, 14.8 percent, with a 8.4 percent goal; and service-disabled veteran contracts, 6.6 percent, with a 3.5 percent goal, Kay said. The only goal Andrews failed to meet was for Historically Underutilized Business Zone contracts, which constituted 2.8 percent of contracts, falling short of its 3.2 percent goal.
Tom Willoughby, government market consultant for the Sutter Group in Lanham, questioned how businesses that might be lacking in resources to do Air Force work could get involved.
Hair suggested businesses partner with other businesses that compensate for the other’s shortcoming.
Robert E. Richards Jr. of Erimax, an acquisition manager in Dunkirk, advised the Air Force to do a better job of ensuring pipeline projects are mentioned on its website so businesses can prepare in advance.
Other executives lamented the difficulty for 8(a) certified businesses in obtaining contacts because they lack the time or resources to hunt down sole-source opportunities.
Willoughby said the situation is compounded by the limited staff Andrews has working on sorting contracts into sole-source options.
Andrews officials also discussed upcoming projects and contracting opportunities at the base, including a new ambulatory surgical clinic to replace Malcolm Grow Medical Center, which is set to be contracted this spring if Andrews gets funding. The clinic is part of a larger project that will feature an aeromedical staging facility, dental clinic and parking garage. Andrews officials hope to have the clinic operational in fiscal 2016.
Other projects on the horizon include $6 million in building demolition, the consolidation of the security force facility in fiscal 2016 and 2018, a new physical fitness center in fiscal 2014, a child development center for the base realignment personnel influx and a base civil engineering complex.
Col. Ken Rizer, commander of the 11th Wing, emphasized the base is interested in any ideas businesses have about working with the community and increasing its local impact. He said he has made local contracting a high priority for the wing.
“We want people to know Andrews is open for business,” Rizer said.
He added that the opening of the West Gate in December or January will enable Andrews personnel to easily walk off base, opening new opportunities for retail development across the street.
“We’ve primed the pump by modifying the gate,” Rizer said.