Lawrence Livermore increases contracts awarded to small businesses for third straight year

Ask Norma Jean Hinds why Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has been able to consistently increase partnerships with small businesses and you'll get a compelling answer.

"The Lab gives mom and pop businesses more opportunities," said Hinds, who is the general manager of Akima Infrastructure Services, LLC., a small business that provides staffing for the Lab. "They take small businesses under their wing and help them succeed."

For the third straight year, Lawrence Livermore has increased opportunities for small businesses by awarding them more contracts. This current fiscal year as of July 31, 62.6 percent of the $350 million spent for services and supplies in support of LLNL's mission to conduct science in the national interest was spent with small businesses, which are defined by employee count or revenue.

So far, this year's numbers far exceed the Department of Energy's (DOE) goal of having LLNL award 52 percent of contracts to small businesses.

"Lawrence Livermore is committed to helping regional and national small businesses succeed," said Kelly Miller, LLNL's Supply Chain Management department head.

Procurement goals for awarding small business contracts also were exceeded in the last two fiscal years. In FY11, DOE's goal for awarding LLNL contracts to small businesses was 45 percent, while the Lab achieved 62.2 percent. In FY12, DOE's goal was 50 percent, while the Lab achieved 52.7 percent.

LLNL's successful track record in working with small businesses has not gone unnoticed.

Last year, the Lab received the FY11 M&O Small Business Achievement of the Year Award from DOE. It recognized LLNL's commitment to being a strong small business advocate.

Of the $350 million procurements to date, LLNL awarded $219 million to small businesses. Of the $219 million, 22.6 percent was awarded to small disadvantaged businesses (a small business that's at least 51 percent owned by one or more individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged); 15.9 percent was awarded to veteran-owned businesses; 4.4 percent was awarded to women-owned businesses; and the remaining amount went to small businesses in general.

Michelle Quick, LLNL's Small Business Program manager, said working with small businesses helps promote one of the Lab's top priorities: increasing diversity. Small businesses represent many different groups of people.

"Small businesses are very diverse, and they generate a large amount of innovations," Quick said. "Doing business with them helps stimulate the economy. It's good for our community and it's good for the nation."

Quick said securing LLNL business contracts is very competitive for both small and large businesses. The fact that so many small businesses have achieved contracts means they are highly qualified.

"Small businesses have to demonstrate the ability to do the highly specialized work we have here," Quick said.

Small businesses find out about the Lab's business opportunities through Quick's outreach efforts. She attends conferences, business expos and trade meetings to find qualified small businesses. They also learn about opportunities through LLNL's Small Business website that outlines subcontracted opportunities.

"There are a lot of talented small businesses out there," she said.

Government Scientific Source Inc. (GSS), a veteran-owned small business that provides laboratory supplies, safety equipment and chemicals to LLNL, is one of those talented businesses. The company first began working with the Lab by supporting the Human Genome Project.

"One of the primary reasons why GSS enjoys working with LLNL is because of the people at the Lab," said Mike Mendrysa GSS's vice president of business development. "LLNL employees are highly motivated, professional and intelligent, and they truly care about their work and core mission of supporting the Department of Energy. The working relationship between GSS and the Lab includes effective communications at all levels that provide a solid foundation for GSS to support LLNL."

Akima is another talented business working with the Lab. The small disadvantaged business has a diverse group of employees staffed at LLNL as engineers, scientists, security escorts and custodians.