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Power Of Partnership

Power of Partnership

Responsible for roughly 80 percent of our nation’s job growth, small businesses are engines of innovation and are an invaluable asset to our economy. Small businesses can augment a larger firm’s capabilities and skill sets to give pursuit teams a competitive edge on contract bids, while large businesses can help their small business allies grow into new markets and become more competitive. Establishing strong partnerships between the two can be an effective way to find success in a competitive federal marketplace.

As collaborators with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Fort Worth District on multiple projects, Atkins and O’Brien Engineering Inc. (OEI) have a robust history pooling talent and expertise to deliver work for federal customers. The Atkins and OEI partnership is a unique and successful association, demonstrating the power that partnerships between small and large firms can have in developing innovative solutions to complex problems.

A win-win opportunity

As part of its mission to diversify its subcontractors, the USACE Fort Worth District sets aside contracts exclusively for certified small businesses. Included among these was a five-year indefinite delivery contract (IDIQ) to provide facility condition assessments, energy audits, and facility building design support for agencies under the Department of Homeland Security and other federal customers.

The contract was viewed as a golden opportunity for Atkins and OEI to combine its respective talents and provide critical services to the District’s customers. From the onset, the match between Atkins and OEI has been based in mutual benefit beyond ticking off a box in the contract requirements section. A certified Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business based outside of Dallas, OEI provides a wide range of engineering and management services to clients nationwide, with historical competencies in civil engineering and water resources. It has a strong presence in Texas and additional existing contracts providing engineering and design services for federal agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The relationship is also rooted in mutual respect combined with a long-standing rapport through heavy involvement with organizations like the Society of American Military Engineers. For OEI, partnering with a large firm like Atkins was a perfect choice: a firm with similarly aligned goals serving its customers with excellence, combined with its specific expertise in niche markets and a global portfolio in project management and civil engineering. Likewise, teaming with OEI presented Atkins with a win-win opportunity to deliver work with the USACE Fort Worth District that had been set aside for a small business.

Small steps, giant leaps

A crucial element of the Atkins-OEI partnership is trust. Regardless of their contract percentage, Atkins gives task orders for the IDIQ the same care as if it were the prime, and is highly attentive to project schedules and responsive to OEI’s and the customers’ needs. The success of this perspective was evident on a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) design-build proposal that OEI prepared for the southern border. Atkins provided critical in-house expertise for some of the less common functions required on the task order. For instance, Atkins’ experienced cost estimator provided precise cost information for a remote, low accessibility area, while Atkins’ support and past project experience with the end customer helped to enable OEI to better serve USACE and CBP.

An additional aspect has been a clear understanding of the team’s technical capabilities, as well as a willingness to be candid about resource and personnel availability, expertise, and appropriateness for specific work. This allows for efficient, productive communication between project managers, enabling Atkins to provide critical resources to OEI so they can meet the customers’ requirements. In the end, the effective collaboration between OEI and Atkins on this contract has led to additional work for the client and its end customers, which is arguably the most important validation of a successful partnership in our industry.

A partnership built to last

While Atkins and OEI are not in a formal mentor-protégé relationship, the goals of each company are the same on this IDIQ: seek to understand the customer, meet and exceed the customer’s expectations, and further cultivate its personnel and company expertise. A strong differentiator is that Atkins simultaneously understands and respects OEI’s mission to develop its capabilities; therefore, Atkins takes a proactive role in helping to guide OEI in the areas where Atkins has more expertise. And in the process, the relationship between the firms strengthens. As a result, the partnership continues to collaborate successfully, delivering strong solutions to their customers. With a supportive large business and a small business driven to excel, we can solve our nation’s most pressing security and infrastructure issues and meet our government’s most challenging requirements.

Co-authored by Jim O’Brien, O’Brien Engineering, Inc.

A member of SAME since 2002 and a SAME Fellow, Jim O’Brien, President and Founder of O’Brien Engineering, Inc. (OEI), has continuously operated his company for 30 years, since 1987. When he founded OEI, it primarily offered specialty water resources engineering services to municipal and private clients. In 2004, Mr. O’Brien and OEI began serving federal customers as a subconsultant and, in 2013, as a prime contractor. A certified Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), OEI now provides multidiscipline engineering and architectural services as well as program management and professional support services. OEI currently holds two USACE IDIQ/MATOC multi-year contracts developed to serve Interagency and International Support customers including CBP, NCA, and other Districts. Mr. O’Brien serves as Program Manager on OEI’s task orders off these contracts, and has developed a solid understanding of the varying governmental regulations, and how these regulations are applied at the task order level. Serving as Senior Project Manager or QA/QC Manager, Mr. O’Brien also serves the VA, FEMA, and USDA. He holds a BS in Civil Engineering from Texas Tech University and is a graduate of the Veteran Institute for Procurement (VIP), Montgomery County, MD.

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