URS works with TerranearPMC on large, complex projects
TerranearPMC was a valuable part of the team on DOE's huge River Corridor Closure Project at Hanford, owned jointly by URS, Bechtel and CH2M Hill
URS (San Francisco, CA) is a global engineering and construction firm with business worth $10 billion a year or more. Sam Artis is director of the URS small business liaison office. He's been with the company and its predecessors for thirty-six years.
Artis started out with Morrison-Knudsen (Boise, ID), an engineering and construction firm, which was acquired by Washington Group International (Boise, ID) in 1996. He worked on contracts and subcontracts for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency, standardizing the paperwork while keeping individual requirements in mind. Washington Group, and Artis with it, was acquired by URS in 2007.
A pro in government contracts
After years of experience in government construction and engineering contracts, Artis was well qualified when his position was formalized in 2000 under Washington Group, and he continued in the small business liaison role when the company was acquired by URS.
"The job is complicated," he explains. "There are requirements for each business segment: federal, state and commercial markets. Then each federal agency has different requirements for participation in small business programs and for mentor/protégé relationships.
"Understanding the different requirements for each agency, as well as those of state agencies and commercial clients, and determining how to build and manage these relationships is a challenge," he says. And integrating the small minority- and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBEs) is another piece of the puzzle.
Artis notes that the company works hard to enhance relationships with its current M/WBE partners. "I'm never satisfied that we are fully utilizing those current relationships," he says. "When a new company comes along, I need to consider the impact on other suppliers and how I will offer the new supplier to others in the company."
Twenty-four at a time
As Artis explains it, the mentor/protégé relationship at URS is an exclusive and highly visible liaison. But just signing a mentor/protégé agreement does not guarantee success. "The supplier needs to have the technical wherewithal to round out the team for a particular project and help us meet contract requirements. It has to make technical and business sense," Artis says. And of course all such relationships have to be sanctioned by the client for the project involved.
At any one time, the company manages about twenty-four mentor/protégé contracts across multiple programs; most of these are three-year relationships. Depending on the contract URS might review accounting systems and host health and safety training for the supplier.
For the Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Defense (DOD) markets, suppliers may be brought in to speak to URS procurement people and discuss the relationship and the services they can provide.
Beyond that, Artis looks at who the client is, where the job is and what subcontractors might be used. "The demographics of the area tell me what the team should have in terms of diversity. For example if we're bidding on a transportation job in Atlanta, the contract will have a 30 percent or greater diversity requirement. We have to include that in our original estimate."
Bringing in Natives
The current supplier diversity program at URS meets or exceeds all federal requirements except for Native American-owned businesses, so Artis is currently focusing on that segment. This is the second year in a row that URS will host an onsite one-day workshop/conference for Native American contractors. Seventy-five contractors attended the previous conference.
Current figures for the program show that over the last five years URS has bought $783 million from minority business enterprises (MBEs) and $1.1 billion from women-owned business enterprises (WBEs). Minority participation tripled from $96.8 million in 2008 to $282.5 million in 2010, while WBEs went from $166 million to $357.6 million in those years. "We've moved the ball forward every year," Artis says with pride. Overall, URS subcontracts approximately 53 percent of the work to small businesses.
URS looks for central contractor registration, a requirement for federal work. Every state has its own unified certification program, but commercial clients usually want certification from the National Minority Supplier Development Council, the Women's Business Enterprise National Council, or city certifications. "The client tells me what pools I can draw from," Artis says.
Artis thinks that the value of the supplier diversity program is multidimensional. "First of all, these business owners pay taxes like everyone else. They fund these programs at the state and federal levels, so they deserve a chance to earn their tax dollars back.
"Secondly, we need an experienced, talented resource pool as close to the job as possible, and it needs to reflect the community. Finally, it's a business imperative. Our name hangs on the project gate for the duration of the job, and after the job is done, it's the reputation of my client at stake. I hope to be able to enhance both reputations!"
TerranearPMC provides comprehensive services
"MBE TerranearPMC has enhanced our reputation at DOE sites around the country," Artis says. "I am impressed by their understanding of different government agencies and the nuances involved. They are constantly keeping me abreast of what's going on. They enhance our team and are well-known and well-respected."
In return, "Sam Artis does a tremendous job of educating people in procurement about the rules," says Amar Raval, president and CEO of Terra-nearPMC (Irving, TX). The MBE provides a wide range of services, including environmental compliance and remediation, hazardous and radiological waste management, military munitions response and renewable energy.
"They have a vision at the corporate level, and it translates throughout the organization. It is the ideal of how these kinds of programs should be organized," Raval insists.
A 2002 startup
Raval, whose family is from India, grew up near Princeton, NJ. "My dad came to the States in 1962 and he's still a Yankees fan," he notes. Raval has a 1993 BS in civil engineering from Ohio University and a 1999 MS in civil engineering from the University of Houston (Houston, TX).
In the first few years of his career he worked for Arthur D. Little (ADL, Cambridge, MA) in international management and engineering. In 2002 he started Terranear Technologies Group LLC with the support of two partners.
"My experience at ADL gave me broad engineering and technology services exposure, supporting both commercial and government clients," Raval says.
Terranear grew quickly, from a staff of one in the beginning to ten by 2004. After Terranear merged with PMC Environmental in 2004, it had a staff of forty; today that has grown to 160. 2010 revenues were over $50 million, and 2011 revenues are expected to be even higher.
The relationship with URS goes back to PMC's original relationship at Morris-Knudsen, where Sam Artis worked, in the 1990s. The two companies partnered on an environmental remediation project at Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. This and other joint projects at Los Alamos continued until 2008.
High satisfaction level
"An extremely high level of mutual respect was established, and it became clear that the companies shared the same values and emphasis on safety, quality of work and customer satisfaction," says Raval. "In the performance of high-hazard field activities and a 24/7 deep-well drilling operation that lasted more than two years, there were no reportable or lost-time incidents."
Following the conclusion of the original contract, TerranearPMC was awarded several small-business set-aside projects by the Los Alamos National Lab, Raval notes.
Working at Hanford
TerranearPMC has continued to work with URS and was included on the River Corridor Closure Project (RCCP) team in 2005. The project involves cleanup and remediation of the Columbia River in the vicinity of the Department of Energy (DOE) Hanford, WA site, which produced plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons programs from 1944 to 1987.
Following the award of the contract to Washington Closure Hanford, LLC (WCH), which is owned jointly by URS, Bechtel and CH2M Hill, Terra-nearPMC was selected as a protégé of WCH under the DOE's mentor-protégé program. WCH has worked closely with TerranearPMC to develop a growth strategy for the company and support its desire to perform increasingly large and complex environmental remediation projects.
"This culminated in Terra-nearPMC's performance of one of the most complicated and highest-risk remediation projects in the RCCP," says Raval. The $20 million project removed drums contaminated with pyrophoric metal alloyed with beryllium, which created the combined hazard of fire and beryllium release.
Mentor-protégé and more
TerranearPMC also has a mentor-protégé relationship with URS, and has worked closely with other large businesses, including Bechtel National Inc (San Francisco, CA), Tetra Tech (Pasadena, CA), the Shaw Group (Baton Rouge, LA), CH2M Hill (Meridian, CO), and EnergySolutions (Salt Lake City, UT).
"Strategic, large-business relationships have been very important to our growth and diversification," says Raval.
TerranearPMC currently holds certifications as a Small Disadvantaged Business and also participates in the SBA's 8(a) business development program.
As for the relationship with URS, Raval says, "If you have an advocate like Sam Artis, it's great. We are committed to technical excellence. But you also really have to understand how these programs work before you partner with a large company. I'm proud of our team, and proud that we've taken the time to educate ourselves on the regulations."