After 20 years of engineering across the state, VENCOR Engineering is achieving new growth thanks in part to their work with the New Mexico Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP). Led by President Hector Vasquez, a visionary who set his sights on future growth, the SBA 8(a) firm has achieved new success. Mr. Vasquez recently announced the establishment of VENCOR Construction to complement the expertise and demand for VENCOR Engineering.
A few of the services which VENCOR Engineering, LLC offers include municipal engineering, site developments, drainage channel improvements, water district infrastructure expansions, reverse osmosis (RO) water treatment plant reconstruction, Preliminary Engineering Reports, Vulnerability Assessment Reports, site plan reviews, grading, drainage, water, sewer, paving and “as-built” documents.
Most of the work requires rapid response and cost-effective solutions with intense project management. As a PTAP client, Mr. Vasquez stays on top of networking and contracting opportunities offered by PTAP. He has successfully grown his company over the years and built an impressive range of past performance history. His credits include federal, state and local contracts.
In 2010 VENCOR Engineering, LLC was retained by the Lower Rio Grande Public Water Works Authority (LRGPWWA) to plan, design, permit, administer and record the construction installation of the Berino – Mesquite / Del Cerro Water Systems Improvement (BMDC) Project in Dona Ana County, NM. The 32 mile, $7.2 Million water pipeline project required 22 months to install and involved inter agency coordination that included the US Department of Agriculture-Rural Development (USDA-RD), New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), NM Water Trust Board, NM Department of Transportation (NMDOT), Dona Ana County and the Elephant Butte Irrigation District (EBID).
Private entity and permit filing involved BNSF Railroad and the Kinder Morgan Pipeline Utilities Corporation. The successful design and installation of this monumental water line project is already improving the quality of life of thousands of Dona Ana County valley residents.
Most recently, VENCOR Engineering, LLC entered into a subcontracting agreement with another PTAP client for a construction project with the City of Las Cruces.
Mr. Vasquez is always willing to serve his community as well and participated in a Career Fair at the Dona Ana Community College in Las Cruces where he spoke to job seekers about interview techniques. He continues to be very enthusiastic about job growth within his own organization and always maintains a positive, progressive attitude. Most importantly, he stays on top of opportunities for training, networking or contracting notices sent out by PTAP.
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Montech, Inc. has been named the Star Client for the Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) for the year 2015. Principal Monica Jojola and owners of other star client businesses in the New Mexico Small Business Development Center network will be honored at a reception at La Fonda on the Plaza in Santa Fe on Wednesday, February 3, 2016 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. All Star Clients will be introduced on the floors of the State House and State Senate the following morning.
A New Mexico PTAP client since January 2013, Montech, Inc. serves as an example of how clients attain success. Montech’s primary PTAP counselor Diane Kimbrell Howell says, “Ms. Jojola is doing everything right; she began her business in the staffing industry that she had worked in for years and she started small by seeking sub-contracting opportunities to build her past performance. That track record ultimately demonstrated not only to the SBA 8(a) certifiers (that recently issued her certification in the business development program), but also to the USAF customers here locally that have now awarded her two separate contract vehicles for staffing services. Ms. Jojola not only understands the importance of demonstrated capability, she also has a commitment to marketing discipline, maximizing every opportunity for prospective customer interaction.”
The owner also credits her strategic partnerships and nearly two decades of federal contracting that have led Albuquerque-based Montech Inc. to success since its inception in 2011. The 100 percent American Indian-owned corporation provides federal and state agencies, tribal governments and commercial clients a high-quality workforce and support services for newly awarded projects.
Company Principal Monica Jojola of Isleta Pueblo initially began her business consulting after working at Datacom Sciences and Chickasaw Nation Industries (CNI) for more than 15 years. As director of Business Development at CNI, Ms. Jojola interfaced at the highest federal levels, including briefing commanding officers at the Pentagon and negotiating with senior executives.
“Mid-point in my career, I knew I could build a business earning government contracts,” said Ms. Jojola, who resigned from CNI on a Friday and went to start her own company the following Monday. “With the experience I had gained, I was not quite as fearful of building something on my own.”
As Ms. Jojola began this new venture, she was also acquiring partners and started organizing personnel and resources for the partners that were awarded multimillion competitive contracts. Now Montech is also prime contractor with full-time and part-time employees, including a Catholic priest and a Protestant Religious coordinator who worked at Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB).
“The Procurement Technical Assistance [Program] played a key role in my providing religious services at Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB). While assisting another client, PTAP learned of the base’s need to contract out some religious services requirements. That need would have caused an undue burden on existing personnel for the services by requiring them to start a new company, complete all the necessary registrations, provision back office services and learn how to be fully compliant with all the various statues and regulations, both Federal and state.
PTAP approached my firm and the KAFB customers with a potential solution that was a win for all parties involved: Montech took on the personnel under a staffing contract. Other businesses may not have wanted to take on such small contracts, but ultimately Kirtland awarded Montech multi-year contracts for both religious assemblies. The assistance from the PTAP Albuquerque and Bernalillo offices was invaluable.
The business relationships that you build while doing this work are incredible. These people become your long time partners,” according to Ms. Jojola, who received SBA 8(a) certification in July 2015.
In early 2016, Montech, Inc will be awarded another multi-year contract that PTAP assisted her with – this one for staffing services to provision health and fitness instructors to KAFB.
When a prime contractor asked Margaret Nava and her husband, Tony Nava, owners of NFI, Inc., if they could seal an abandoned mine while on a job, their answer was yes. It wasn’t long after that the Albuquerque based-firm began to create a business out of closing abandoned mines throughout the Southwest.
According to NFI, there are about 1,500 abandoned mines in New Mexico and more than a half million in the United States. NFI has closed more than 330 mines in the region, including in spots at Lake Mead, Nevada; Coronado National Monument in Arizona; Paris Mill in Colorado; Marble Canyon in Death Valley in California; and along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. All the closures meet Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal and state requirements. They also contain special bat gates to allow the animals to fly freely into their habitat but closes off the entrance to humans or large animals so that it doesn’t pose a risk.
So many abandoned mines remain on public lands after the Gold Rush and extensive mining for metals to support World War II. Some of the large holes are faux mines created by swindlers who wanted to sell land for a premium.
Since 2005, NFI, which started as a general contracting company, began performing subcontract services and now does work for the EPA, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service. The company hires students who have earned or are earning a welding certificate from the Job Corps, a free education and training program that helps young people, many who are at-risk, learn a career, earn a high school diploma or GED.
In 2011, the company received its 8(a) certification and has been certified as an Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business with PTAP’s help. Margaret Nava also had some help from a mentor of sorts, another seasoned government contractor a PTAP advisor recommended to her who helped her navigate the contracting world with a lot of positive, helpful feedback.
While NFI has had contracting success, Margaret Nava said she’s been most grateful to give back through her company by hiring Job Corps students.
“It’s important to have a company that can work with them and the patience to work with them,” she said. “We want them to make good wages and feed their families—that’s one of the things I’m most proud of.”
When the residential construction business began to take a dive as the U.S. economy started to tumble in 2008, Lawrence and Laura Fierro needed to find something else to keep their business, Fierro Enterprises, LLC, going strong.
The Fierros, custom homebuilders for residential customers in Las Cruces, started looking into government contracts with the help of Senior PTAP Advisor Elke Mosholder after meeting her at an event.
One of the Fierros’ first contracting jobs was with the U.S. Army, replacing a septic tank in the wilderness near Cloudcroft. Other jobs include adding safety doors and air conditioning to the guard shacks for Las Cruces Public Schools. The company has also worked for New Mexico State University remodeling the Corbett Center Student Union, and the Center for Countermeasures at the White Sands Missile Range installing the heating, venting and cooling systems, among other projects.
Laura Fierro said for the past few years she and her husband have made the hour-long drive to Alamogordo to see Elke for help on bids, making sure that all the information is correct, and guidance on what questions to ask and which contracting officer to follow up with.
“When you first start contracting, understanding how the building process works to the government specifications and the requirements is a learning curve. It’s also very complex as far as the paperwork,” Laura Fierro said. “When you get that first contract there is no one to teach you how to do it and you have to learn how to do it on your own. But that’s where PTAP comes in very handy.”
In 2011, the company obtained 8(a) status and since has built structures and had other projects, including plumbing, road and flood control work at White Sands.
Although it was challenging in the beginning, the Fierros have enjoyed the federal work.
“The best part has been the opportunity to branch out into a different market that we didn’t even know existed,” Laura Fierro said. “We were able to put our name out there in a different setting of construction. And it’s been steady—it’s been positive growth for the company to learn a different division of the industry. It’s been good.”
The Fierros offer this advice to small business owners who are interested in federal contracting: “Prepare and get well organized. You have to follow the government requirements to the T. You need to have very good communication skills, and be very conscientious about timelines,” said Laura Fierro. “That’s how you will succeed.”
For the past seven years, Robert and Becky Lee of Alamogordo have been using a specialized procedure to clean grout, tile and carpet for both commercial and residential customers in Southern New Mexico.
“Our first customer was White Sands. I just drove in and talked to them. They laughed at me when I told them what I could do,” said Robert Lee describing how his machine, which uses heat and just the right amount of water pressure can remove gum and other tough substances without ruining concrete or other hard surfaces. It also cleans carpets. “They said, ‘OK, show us,’ and I did it. We’ve been doing it about twice a year ever since. They still haven’t found anyone who can do what we can do.”
Double Eagle Restoration, LLC, was Robert Lee’s fifth attempt at building a business after the economy began to tank and his employer at the time began cutting back operations. He started to look for something that could supplement his income. After hearing about a specialized cleaning machine and training to use it from a friend, Robert Lee went to Phoenix to learn more about it. He then leased the equipment when he created his own business and eventually quit his job to grow his company. He now builds the equipment himself through his second business, Gum-B-Gone.
Double Eagle Restoration has contracts with Wal-Mart and Holloman Air Force Base. Robert Lee said PTAP and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) both provided support in both starting and growing his companies from business planning to employee procedures and management. Robert Lee said Senior PTAP Advisor Elke Mosholder has been helpful with recommendations and keeping his business in the loop when bids came out.
For businesses interested in government contracting, Robert Lee says in the beginning it helps to do a few jobs outside your scope of work or do it at cost “just to get your name out there,” recalling a subcontract with one of the largest government contractors in the country, Hensel Phelps.
“We didn’t want to be janitors but we hired a guy to take care of the trailers for the two and half years that we worked with Hensel Phelps,” Robert Lee said. “We don’t normally do that work, we still don’t do it, but then we could get on base (Holloman), move around and show them what we could do.
“I don’t think we would have found those contracts without the help of PTAP,” he said.
In 2009, Double Eagle Restoration was honored as the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year. The Lees are embarking on a new business venture with the U.S. manufacturing of a machine that sanitizes and deodorizes water without chemicals.
“Without the help of people at PTAP and SBDC, we probably wouldn’t be here today,” he said.
After a former employer told her he didn’t have the funds to pay her, New Mexico native Denise Vigil began freelancing and soon gained enough clients to develop a business.
Founded in 1986, Vigil Enterprises, Inc., evolved from a staff augmentation company to a full-service architectural and engineering design firm providing services to federal agencies and national research centers, including Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. Vigil Enterprises, a minority, woman-owned Certified U.S. SBA 8(a) Small Disadvantaged Business, has in-house project management, architectural, civil and structural/civil engineering, interior design, BIM specialists, LEED® professionals, cost estimating, and construction support services with a focus on DOE and DoD customers.
The firm has managed and designed numerous projects for LANL, and has served as the prime A-E contractor on very complex design projects to support the growing needs of the facility. Vigil Enterprises has also designed the infrastructure upgrades required for the Trinity computer, a project allowing LANL to better assess the health of the weapons in the U.S. for nuclear deterrent.
Ms. Vigil has built her business with family support. In 2004 Tom Roberts (now her husband) joined the firm and currently serves as vice president. Ms. Vigil’s mom has been her bookkeeper since the early years, and since his retirement, her dad assists with payroll.
Being a woman in the field of architectural-engineering who is neither an architect nor an engineer has been both rewarding and challenging. Ms. Vigil has proven to her clients that first and foremost her primary business is service. Ms. Vigil, who has received the SBA Small Business Contractor of the Year for Region VI and the SBA Administrator’s Award of Excellence twice, believes that she must meet the needs of the client as a key to success.
After learning about PTAP through the SBA when entering into the 8(a) program, Vigil Enterprises has grown substantially. Through PTAP’s ideas and suggestions, the firm expanded into the Albuquerque area in 2014. Ms. Vigil hopes to continue gaining increasing opportunities for work in the Albuquerque area and southern part of the state.
“Whenever advice or training is needed for contract procurement, PTAP is there,” she says. “Vigil Enterprises knows they have a reliable partner that truly cares about their company and has the resources to help make our dreams a reality.”