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New Mexico businesses learn to grow on government dollars

November 11, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. government is spending billions of dollars in New Mexico on a wide variety of goods and services and local business owners are building and boosting their bottom line by tapping into the federal procurement progress.

From janitorial and office repair to selling valves and machine screws, some business owners sell only a portion of their products to federal agencies, while others devote much of their efforts to seeking and maintaining a mostly federal workload. Still others have been so successful that they are leaving government work behind and focusing more on the private sector, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

John Garcia, head of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s New Mexico office, said about $2.1 billion in federal contracting dollars went to small businesses in the state in fiscal 2017. That spending flows through two national laboratories, Kirtland, Cannon and Holloman air force bases and numerous other federal agencies that operate in New Mexico.

“New Mexico depends on federal contracts,” he said. “Although some say we are too reliant on federal contracts,” the expertise that companies gain doing government work can be “rolled over into the private sector.”

And while it’s not always easy to navigate federal procurement hurdles, Wildflower International of Santa Fe owner Kimberly deCastro says the exacting requirements have given her company the tools to constantly improve and grow.

“To me, it’s a 27-year-old marriage and love story. They (government agencies) are an excellent customer and an excellent mentor. I couldn’t have grown my company like I did without it,” deCastro said.

Lynn Armijo, owner of Four Winds Mechanical in Albuquerque, says the company she inherited from her father in 2013 was almost at the brink of shutting down while the New Mexico construction industry suffered from the effects of the recession.

There were too many companies competing for limited work and although she had long been a technician and site superintendent for the company, some customers didn’t want to do business with a woman-owned firm after she took over.

Armijo started bidding for federal jobs with the help of the Small Business Administration and the Procurement Technical Assistance Center in Albuquerque. Both agencies provide free workshops, one-on-one guidance and other resources so local businesses can more easily get certified and compete for government projects.

Armijo, who served in Iraq with the Air National Guard, qualified as a “service-disabled veteran-owned small business,” one of several certifications that provide preference when it comes to government work.

Businesses in the state, she said, have had to be dependent on government work because until recently New Mexico’s economy has been stagnant. She said projects like the Facebook data center under construction in Los Lunas and the planned Netflix purchase of Albuquerque Studios will help.

Wildflower International has been so successful that it has branched out from doing IT services and hardware for the federal government into the world of data and drones. It has partnered with Albuquerque startup Silent Falcon to provide customers with information collected from unmanned aerial vehicles.

The new venture will tap into government work, but deCastro said she was surprised to discover the growth opportunities in the private sector. For example, ranchers might need aerial data to survey their cattle or land holdings and wind farms might be interested in data analytics, she said.

That means she will pivot her company in a way that was unexpected so she can continue to be profitable and take care of her employees. The journey couldn’t have happened without her federal government expertise.

“We are a true Cinderella story,” she said.

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com

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