Finalization of SEIS could get buildup ball rolling - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Finalization of SEIS could get buildup ball rolling

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As we prepare to celebrate the liberation of Guam by United States Marines 71 years ago, there are many here anxiously waiting to celebrate the return of the Corps. They are expected back, of course, as part of a long-delayed relocation from Okinawa that was first announced in 2006.

Now that the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement has been released, the final step in the required environmental approval process - called the Record of Decision - is now due out in about 30 days. The ROD is seen as the trigger for a multibillion-dollar Defense Department spending spree.

Wayne Cornell of military contractor DZSP said it's been a long time coming.  He recalls advising construction industry friends back in 2007 not to rush in, saying, "As I predicted a long time ago, there's no way you can put that much money that they were talking about on this small island, with the logistics support and the infrastructure support, that's here, we couldn't have spent that much money if we wanted to. So we knew it was going to have to be over a protracted period of time, and because of the political issues involved it was not going to happen right away either. Yeah, so it's going to happen, and I think it's going to be close to 4,000 or 5,000 Marines here, and it may become a deployment site, rather than a permanent party site."

Cornell's company is a long-time DOD contractor that holds the base operations support contract. The bulk of the money will go to construction projects, but with an estimated $8 billion to be spent, there will be plenty of other opportunities. Cornell says companies need to understand what they're getting into when doing business with the feds, adding, "One of the problems with government contracting and a reason why a lot of contractors don't get involved with the government is because there a lot of rules. And if you don't know what those rules are, it's hard to get your foot in the door, and it's also difficult to understand what the cost impacts are of those rules. I have a very good friend in the construction industry who refuses to do business with the government because it costs him about forty percent more to do business with the government than the commercial sector."

For small businesses there is help in the form of the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), a program funded by DOD and hosted at the University of Guam. Boris Hertslet is the program manager and said, "We're here to help people navigate the federal websites, navigate the federal registrations.  There's basically two things you need to do business with the federal government. You need to get a DUNS number and you need to register on a database called SAM. Those are the basic two things. Once you have those two things you can start selling to the federal government."

The DUNS number is a unique identifier for a company's physical location.  SAM is the System for Awards Management, of which Hertslet says, "It's basically a database, any vendor in the world that wants to do business with the U.S. federal government. So if you're not in that database there's pretty much no way you're going to sell your product or service to the federal government. And so that database has some quirks on it, a lot of the questions in that database are based on the federal acquisition regulations that can get a little complicated. Lot of lawyer speak in there. Lot of big words, terminology, acronyms that people don't understand, and that's where we come in. and we help all those people answer those questions and get that registration completed."

Hertslet says they also help companies new to federal contracting manage their expectations.  One of the more common mistakes? "Someone opens up a brand new business and they think their first sale is going to be to the federal government, it's not going to happen.  The federal government is, although it doesn't seem like it at times, they're very risk adverse. So they're not going to take a chance on you, they're not going to be your first customer.  They want people who have experience, they want people who have some past performance. People who've actually completed building something," he shared.

And that could likely come in the form of many off-island companies who will come to compete for the billions in federal dollars.  But Hertslet says local businesses can still take advantage, noting, "Partnering is key.  Sometimes it saddens me, because we're here for the local business. That a contract that I know a local business can do, or a team of local businesses can do, is won by a company from California or something like that. To me that shouldn't happen. Businesses on Guam need to take advantage of teaming with each other. And I really agree that should happen."

"My first recommendation would be to start small, but there's always the opportunity to partner up, joint venture, mentor-protege with someone who already has the experience, and is willing to give you a shot at partnering up with them. Especially if you have some niche skill, knowledge or experience that that larger partner needs," he said.

Meanwhile, the government's target is to set aside at least 23% of their contracts for small businesses.  But Hertslet says they've only been able to do that twice, including last year.  So he hopes more local companies can take advantage of these set-asides, adding, "They have to give a certain amount of work to a hub zone certified business, they have to give a certain amount of work to a woman owned business, they have to give a certain amount of work to an 8a business, and then there's the service-disabled veterans. So those four categories are set aside for small businesses, so if local businesses can get those certifications, and we assist with that, we also assist with those certifications, that gives them a leg up, then they can become a teaming partner with that large business coming in, because that large business coming in is going to have to submit a subcontracting plan on whatever work their doing, and they're going to have to hit those goals, and they're going to need help  and that's the best way to do it for small businesses."

Hertslet says companies can check the federal business opportunity website to find out what the government needs.  He says they may be surprised at the variety of work they will find. "There's also amazingly, little things that people don't think about. Religious coordinators, all that stuff is contracted out, so if you want to be a CCD teacher on Andersen that's contracted out, you've got to get a duns number and register in SAM. So we assist with those kind of things.  Naval hospital, technicians, nurses, lab techs, pretty much anyone over there they're all contract hires, so they all have to get a duns number. We assist with that as well.  It's amazing the kind of services and products. We've had people winning contracts for providing live mice," he said.

Hertslet says like many of the companies he works with that are hoping to do business with the federal government, he too is cautiously optimistic. "Like everyone else, I'm looking forward to the buildup as well. I hope it happens, I'm actually more positive that it's going to happen, as soon as the Record of Decision is signed. I think Fiscal Year 2016 is going to be the start of some big things on Guam," he said.

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