Contractors hungry for stimulus
State companies, large and small, cashing in
Dozens of Maryland companies have received federal stimulus contracts, while many more are vying for a piece of the $787 billion pie.
Recent awards under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act range from $40.9 million to the Linthicum office of Michigan construction company Barton Malow Co. to renovate a galley and food service operations at the Naval Academy in Annapolis to $15,000 to Derwood construction and contracting business 1Ci, or 1st Cousins, to repair latrines at Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George's County.
Many more companies want to get in on the action. At Aronson & Co., executives from about half of the roughly 500 government contractor clients of the Rockville accounting and consulting firm are pursuing stimulus contracts or have expressed interest in the program, said Hope A. Lane, who heads Aronson's government contracting group.
"They have been doing a lot of research on the process of applying for stimulus awards," said Lane, who was one of numerous speakers at a conference on the stimulus program at the National Press Club in Washington this week. About 200 representatives of companies, organizations and government agencies attended the event, which was coordinated by the Greater Washington Board of Trade.
The place to start is registering with the Central Contractor Registration, the federal government's primary contracting database, Lane said. Another key government site to register with is the Online Representations and Certifications Application. Then it's important to do your homework on specific requests and guidelines for the contracts you want to pursue, she said.
And after making an application, be prepared to wait.
"The lead time can be from four to six months," Lane said.
There has been quite a bit of competition for many contracts. Barton Malow beat out nine competitors for the Naval Academy project.
Some clients are concerned about not wanting to make certain information public, although others, especially in struggling industries such as construction and real estate, have embraced the opportunity, Lane said.
"You have to know that information will be made public," said Lesley Anne Field, deputy administrator for federal procurement policy in the Office of Management and Budget.
Many construction companies don't have a choice these days but to pursue opportunities with the federal government, said John Reardon, COO of Facchina Development in La Plata, part of the Facchina Group of Companies. One concern is that the stimulus program is only swapping jobs and not really adding any, he said.
"Companies are laying off people when one contract ends, and then hiring new ones for another contract," Reardon said.
First roadway project in Montgomery
But American Infrastructure, a Worcester, Pa., construction company with a unit and offices in Maryland, has obtained enough work under the stimulus program to hire back laid-off workers sooner than expected and retain them, said Mark Compton, the company's director of government affairs.
American Infrastructure won the first project approved this year under the act by the Federal Highway Administration, a $2.1 million road resurfacing and improvement project along about 1 mile of New Hampshire Avenue in White Oak. The project is supporting 60 jobs and is expected to be completed in the late fall on time and on budget, Compton said. The company has about 320 employees in Maryland, he said.
All total, American Infrastructure's Maryland unit has obtained seven stimulus contracts it is working on in the state, with more won companywide in other units, he said. While the company has won numerous Maryland contracts before, the stimulus contracting process has actually gone more quickly than the usual one, with the procurement mechanism already set up, Compton said.
"Maryland has been more aggressive in utilizing stimulus dollars than other states we work with," he said. "State leaders have done an outstanding job in getting this implemented."
Projects such as the New Hampshire Avenue work are occurring throughout the region on top of major ones that were well under way before this year, such as the Intercounty Connector tollway in Maryland, said James C. Dinegar, president and CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade.
"We're already seeing a big impact in this area," he said.
It will take at least a year and perhaps as long as three years to return to the level of zero job loss nationally, said Edward DeSeve, senior adviser to the president for implementation of the recovery act, during the conference.
Stimulus funds were being awarded faster than expected, according to the Government Accountability Office, said Peter Orszag, White House Office of Management and Budget director, in a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York this week. It was misleading to gauge the success of the program on the current national unemployment rate — which hit an almost 26-year high of 9.5 percent last month — because the program was designed to take effect over two years, he said.
Another concern is that small businesses might be largely left behind. But numerous small companies, including 1Ci, have already been awarded contracts. The U.S. Small Business Administration also has its own stimulus site to help smaller companies. Information targeting small businesses was part of a recent conference on obtaining stimulus contracts coordinated by the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development and co-sponsored by the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.
Health care component
The stimulus law includes up to $19 billion for hospitals, physicians and other health care providers to install electronic medical record systems. That in itself could be more important to the medical industry than insurance reform, said David C. Main, a partner with the law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and chairman of its health care practice.
"It's the most important piece of health care legislation to be passed in the last 20 to 30 years," said Main, founder of the Healthcare Technology Network of Greater Washington.
While money is expected to be available in grants, incentive payments and other forms, the criteria to obtain funding have yet to be released, he said. "The money has been slow to come out so far," Main said.
The medical IT component of the stimulus law is the "foundation for health care reform," said Catherine Szenczy, senior vice president and CIO of MedStar Health in Columbia. The medical system includes Franklin Square Hospital Center in Baltimore and Montgomery General Hospital in Olney.
Hospitals have until 2015 to develop significant progress toward electronic records or they will start losing some Medicare funding. MedStar executives have been reviewing their IT strategies and believe they are in sync with federal officials' vision, Szenczy said.
"We think our plan is aligned enough for us to be eligible for stimulus dollars," she said.
Federal web site that details how stimulus money is spent: recovery.gov
Maryland stimulus site: www.recovery.maryland.gov
Montgomery County stimulus site: www.montgomerycounty
U.S. Small Business Administration stimulus site: www.sba.gov/recovery
Government contracting registration programs: www.bpn.gov/ccr; orca.bpn.gov
Maryland companies, large and small, have won more than $100 million in federal stimulus contracts, including the following:
Lozoskie Adams of Parkville, $52,617 from the Army Corps of Engineers in Huntington, W.Va., for wire field fence, gates and posts.
IBM in Bethesda, $1.65 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Silver Spring for support services for the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program.
RIS Paper Co. in Upper Marlboro, $45,000 from the Treasury Department for check paper.
Technology & Management Services Inc. in Gaithersburg, $35.41 million from the Department of Energy for consulting and other services in support of the Loan Guarantee Office.
Edifice Group of Rockville, $1.14 million from the Smithsonian Institution to renovate a barn at the Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Va., and up to $739,426 to repair and restore exterior walls at the Smithsonian's Arts and Industries Building.
Grunley Construction Co. of Rockville, $34.91 million from the General Services Administration to modernize the Mary E. Switzer Building in Washington, D.C.
Source: Targeted News Service
Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect correct name of David Main of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, not Mann.