STG broadens its vision

When the Commerce Department's Commerce Information Technology Solutions (COMMITS) program was launched in 1999, STG Inc. definitely qualified as a small business. But with a worldwide enterprise bringing in $170 million and a workforce of 1,700, it seems the

concept of "small" has changed.

Phil Foote, STG's executive vice president, said those kinds of

numbers are deceiving. What was considered small 10 years ago, or even at the launch of COMMITS,

has little relevance to the current

situation.

Compared to the multibillion-

dollar "gorillas" that trudge across the federal procurement landscape today, he said, "anything south of $500 million a year is small."

Simon Lee, now the company's president and chief executive, founded STG in 1986. It operated well in the shadows of bigger firms until 1992, when the company worked as a subcontractor on a State Department contract. Agency officials recognized the good work the company had been doing and awarded it a separate contract for other work.

The $1.5 million it got from that deal allowed STG to hire 25 more people. The rest, they say, is history.

STG has ambitious plans. According to Foote, the intention is for the company to earn more than half a billion dollars a year in the next five years by focusing on such fast growing areas as homeland security and by broadening its range of services beyond information technology to fields such as applied sciences.

The company also is looking to expand its work in the commercial market. Foote said STG started that commercial push about three years ago but was hindered because of the collapse in the IT sector. With the economy showing signs of improvement, STG will try again, he said.

In the meantime, the company has a thriving government operation to attend to, and it's taking advantage of its COMMITS experience.

Lee believes that a small company needs to eventually compete in the broader world of full-and-open contracting if it is to develop beyond the confines of its relatively protected beginnings in the 8(a) program, which is a separate Small Business Administration program designed to promote the growth of small and economically disadvantaged businesses.

Participation on the COMMITS program will help with that. Besides the work it's brought to the company, COMMITS has also proven to be "an excellent training vehicle for STG on how to put together a competitive proposal," said Jim Ingram, the program manager who oversees STG's COMMITS activities.

"You basically have to go through the same steps as you do for a full-and-open competition," he said, even though the actual process is controlled through the COMMITS program office.

With the kinds of multiyear awards agencies are beginning to give to small businesses — such as the $53 million, seven-year Army Test and Evaluation Command contract STG received in August last year and a more recent $16.6 million five-year Commerce task order, both awarded through COMMITS — there's an obvious trend developing.

"In the past, agencies were leery of using small businesses," Ingram said. "Now, especially through the

COMMITS program, which puts

emphasis on past performance, they are starting to trust small companies to do the job."

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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