Sunday, July 14, 2019

Louisiana businesses awarded $2.8B in federal contracts through Small Business Administration programs -

Louisiana businesses awarded $2.8B in federal contracts through Small Business Administration programs -

Louisiana businesses awarded $2.8B in federal contracts through Small Business Administration programs -

Posted: 13 Jul 2019 10:15 PM PDT

If Hurricane Katrina hadn't hit Louisiana and damaged much of New Orleans, Pontchartrain Partners, a minority-owned construction services business, might not exist.

The reconstruction effort after the storm in 2005 brought together Danny Blanks, Bart Cook and James R. Washington III as business partners as the federal government prepared to spend $14 billion to rebuild New Orleans after Katrina.

Blanks, CEO of Pontchartrain Partners, previously worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in St. Bernard Parish in the mid-2000s.

Pontchartrain Partners was created in 2009 and has grown to more than 100 employees, at first working as a subcontractor for larger companies on federal contracts. The company has since opted to bid for work as a prime contractor as a growth strategy, especially for professional services on construction projects, and is among the hundreds of small businesses in Louisiana awarded nearly $2.8 billion in federal contracts during fiscal 2018.

Certifications such as woman-, veteran- and minority-owned businesses sometimes enable companies to be awarded sole source contracts, plus there are other programs such as the 8a business development program for small disadvantaged businesses offered through the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The Small Business Administration keeps track of federal government contracting because there are yearly goals for different categories of businesses, such as minority- or woman-owned.

There are local resources to enable small-business owners to get certified and facilitate contracts with the federal government. The Louisiana Procurement Technical Assistance Center has staff dedicated to several regions across the state. More than $8.6 billion in government contracts have been awarded to clients of the Louisiana procurement assistance office since its inception.

Minority-owned businesses

Inside the $2.8 billion Louisiana figure for 2018, minority-owned companies, known as historically underutilized businesses, captured a larger percentage of the federal market than the national average.

Minority-owned companies were awarded $302 million during fiscal 2018, or nearly 11% of all federal contracts in Louisiana. Nationally, minority-owned businesses made up only 2% of all federal contracts that year. The federal contracting goal each year for minority-owned companies is at least 3%.

Pontchartrain Partners has nearly grown out of its small-business certification, something the partners expect to happen in the next few years about the time it hits $150 million in annual revenue.

"We prime on almost 90% of projects," Blanks said.

The company has worked extensively in Louisiana on projects over the years, such as the Bonnet Carré Spillway, about 30 miles upriver from New Orleans, and the Morganza Spillway, which sits about 40 miles north of Baton Rouge. Pontchartrain Partners also has entered into a joint venture with one of its earliest business partners, Baton Rouge-based Evans-Graves Engineers, to compete for federal government work.

In recent years, high water levels on rivers across the country has spurred work opportunities from Arkansas to Illinois.

The company was awarded a $1.1 million federal contract in September for the U.S. Army to repair a low-water crossing in Fort Polk, which is about a 1½-hour drive north of Lake Charles. The company also has offices across the country.

"We got a call from Arkansas; they've had a lot of levee breaches for the first time," Cook, chief of construction operations said.

Woman-owned businesses

About 25 years ago, Suna Adam was working for an engineering firm when she had an itch to do more environmental work.

The LSU graduate founded Gulf South Research Corp. doing environmental consulting for the federal government as a subcontractor. Since 1993, she has grown the company to 32 employees and has offices in four states.

"We did a lot of the archaeological and biological surveys when George W. Bush was president. Our archaeologist and biologists have walked the entire border from Brownsville to San Diego," Adam said.

"Years ago, it was really hard to get into (contracting) because you had to be a subcontractor," Adam said.

In December 2015, the federal government began offering sole source contracts to woman-owned small businesses as a way to increase participation.

One lesson Adam has learned over the years is to partner with only a few prime contractors she trusts rather than any business approaching her to fulfill a subcontractor requirement. Adam said she wants to grow the company and branch out to more private sector clients but doesn't aspire to become a big business.

Gulf South Research Corp. was awarded $2.8 million for environmental assessment work, slated to wrap up by September, for U.S. Customs and Border Protection under the Department of Homeland Security.

Of the $2.8 billion awarded in Louisiana in fiscal 2018, $181.7 million went to woman-owned businesses.

The federal government has sought to award at least 5% of its contracts nationwide to woman-owned companies — a goal that has fallen short nearly every year since fiscal 2014, records show. In fiscal 2015, the federal government awarded 5.1% of total contracts to women-owned companies. In fiscal 2018, only 4.75% of federal contracts were awarded to women-owned companies across the nation.

But in Louisiana, roughly 6.5% of federal contracts went to woman-owned companies, bettering the national figure.

Veteran-owned businesses

Meanwhile, there was $143 million in federal contracts for veteran-owned small businesses in Louisiana during fiscal 2018. Separately, $111 million in federal contracts were awarded to service-disabled veteran-owned companies.

Solvet is a service-disabled veteran-owned business in Lafayette that was founded in April 2018. Solvet's chief executive officer, Jared Sere, is an Iraq War veteran who served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

After military service, Sere returned to Louisiana and earned a master's degree at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in business administration. Sere was vice president of strategic growth and emerging markets at Viemed for nearly a year before starting his own business.

But the executive kept ties to Viemed and has a business partnership with the medical equipment supplier that specializes in breathing devices such as ventilators for home care.

"Having my own business is something that I've always wanted to do; it's been in the back of my brain, and I was looking for the right opportunity to start that for the last 10 years," Sere said. "I ran into the right partners."

Solvet sells medical equipment and supplies to the federal government. For example, it was awarded a $53,984 contract with the U.S. Air Force in August for bariatric wheelchairs at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

The company's strategic partnership with Viemed enables it to specialize in respiratory care patients treated at home, many of whom are veterans. The company only has three employees but sometimes leverages the licensed respiratory therapist network across 30 states as a joint venture with Viemed.

"We reduce the strain on the (health care system) by keeping these patients comfortable in the home … as opposed to being recycled through the hospitals and clinics," Sere said.

Many of the patients the products are sent to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which manifests itself as difficulty breathing. While cigarette smoking is the most likely cause of the illness, some veterans exposed to toxic substances on the battlefield deal with the disease when they return home.

The company has plans to expand to other goods and services to sell to the federal government in the coming years. Sere's advice to new small business owners? Be patient.

"Entering into the federal contracting world can be tedious," he said. "You have to learn how they do business in order to do business with them."

The Week in Business: Amazon Won’t Let the Robots Take Over - The New York Times

Posted: 13 Jul 2019 11:10 AM PDT

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Whether you're just coming back from a summer vacation, in the midst of one or not taking any time off, you've probably been too busy marveling at Megan Rapinoe to stay on top of business and tech news this week. Don't worry — we're here to catch you up.

At least, not yet. While Amazon increasingly relies on machines to pluck products from shelves, box them up and ship them to your doorstep, that doesn't mean the humans who now do those things are out of a job. The company announced an ambitious, $700 million retraining program for a third of its employees in the United States (about 100,000 people), all in the name of adapting to the changing role of workers as automated technology continues to do more of the heavy lifting. In related news, Prime Day — Amazon's annual sale for Prime members — will span 48 hours this year, from Monday to Tuesday, and has spawned competing discounts at stores like Target and Walmart.

President Trump gathered his loudest online supporters for a social media summit at the White House on Thursday. Not on the guest list: leaders from the social media platforms themselves, like Twitter and Facebook, which Mr. Trump and many right-wing internet personalities have accused of having an anti-conservative bias. Several political extremists were barred from Facebook, Instagram and YouTube this year for promoting hateful ideologies, and Twitter rolled out new rules against "dehumanizing speech" on Tuesday. Mr. Trump recently said Twitter "should be sued because of what's happening with the bias." In May, his administration released a tool called "share your story," which collects anecdotes from people who believe their social media accounts have been unfairly banned.

The French government passed legislation on Thursday to tax Facebook, Google, Amazon and other digital behemoths that profit from their business in France but have headquarters in the United States. It's the first tax of its kind, but other European countries may soon follow suit. It's also a shot across the bow at the White House, which has claimed that the tax discriminates against American companies. The Trump administration warned France that it would fight the new measure — possibly with its favorite weapon: tariffs.

CreditGiacomo Bagnara

The money manager Jeffrey Epstein was once considered so rich and powerful that he managed to sidestep federal charges when he pleaded guilty to a state prostitution charges in 2008. Now he's facing sex-trafficking charges in New York (where he owns a $77 million mansion), and the leniency of his previous sentence has been called into question. Wrapped up in the furor is Alexander Acosta, who said Friday that he would resign as labor secretary after an uproar over the plea deal he struck with Mr. Epstein more than 10 years ago, when he was a prosecutor in Miami. The hunt for his replacement is expected to begin this coming week.

The chair of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, made it seem nearly certain that the Fed will lower interest rates at its meeting at the end of July, highlighting jitters over the global economic slowdown and the trade war with China. It would be the first rate cut since the recession hit over a decade ago. The stock market rejoiced at the prospect, but some critics believe it's premature, given that the United States economy is still motoring along at a record-breaking pace. Other officials said they worried that Mr. Powell was bowing to political pressure from Mr. Trump, an outspoken proponent of rate cuts.

Jeremy Hunt or Boris Johnson? Britain's new prime minister will be announced on July 23, when Parliament tallies the results of a runoff vote. Mr. Hunt and Mr. Johnson have been in a monthslong face-off in the Conservative Party to succeed Theresa May, who said she would step down after failing to secure an agreement to ferry Britain through its withdrawal from the European Union. (Ms. May has made no secret of her distaste for Mr. Johnson's showy leadership style, and expressed frustration that some of her former opponents on the Brexit deal are now backing him.) Whoever wins will have to resume the Brexit negotiations, whose messy delay has already caused serious damage to Britain's economy.

The United States women's soccer team got a ticker-tape parade for its World Cup victory — which doubled as a rally for equal pay. Virgin Galactic announced that it would go where no space tourism company had gone before when it makes an initial public offering this year. And Deutsche Bank came down to earth with a thud, rolling out a reorganization that will shed 18,000 jobs.

Arkansas River Rafting Business Hands Out $50,000 Worth Of Refunds - CBS Denver

Posted: 13 Jul 2019 07:09 PM PDT

(CBS4) – Commercial rafting is big business in Colorado and the Arkansas River is the most rafted commercial river in the country, but an extra snowy winter made for a dangerous spring and rafting conditions and businesses took a hit. The good news is that high water advisories are dropping off, and the season may last longer than normal. The company River Runners plans to keep operations going into September.

"We weren't able to take as many people rafting during the peak runoff, so we really narrowed our audience on who we could actually take down the river," said Travis Hochard of the Arkansas River Outfitters Association.

(credit: CBS)

River Runners has had to hand out $50,000 worth of refunds to paying customers who didn't want to come out on the high waters.

"It was an extended season this year of high water and so that does impact our business when we get into what's normally the busier time and … we're turning more people away, so it can be challenging," Hochard said.

Last season ended with low water levels and this one started off with too much of a good thing.

(credit: CBS)

"It's happening more and more and I do think that could be partly climate change or getting more variance in the extremes but it's just kind of our new reality," said Hochard.

Across the board, business is down almost 20%. Now that the rivers are getting back to a more average flow, raft companies hope the rafters will come back.

(credit: CBS)

"We're now running our advanced sections through The Numbers, we're running through the Royal Gorge now," Hochard said.

With an expected longer-than-normal season ahead, there's a chance these companies could make back the money they have already lost.

Manhattan power outage knocks out subways, business, elevators - Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Posted: 13 Jul 2019 07:41 PM PDT

NEW YORK — Authorities were scrambling to restore electricity to Manhattan following a power outage that knocked out Times Square's towering electronic screens, darkened marquees in the theater district and left businesses without electricity, elevators stuck and subway cars stalled.

The New York City Fire Department said a transformer fire Saturday evening at West 64th Street and West End Avenue affected more than 44,000 customers along a 30-block stretch from Times Square to about 72nd Street and Broadway.

Officials with Con Edison later tweeted that they were working to restore electricity to customers and businesses primarily on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

The temperature was warm, above 80 even as the sun set, but not as steaming as Manhattan can get in July.

Power reportedly went out early Saturday evening at much of Rockefeller Center and reached the Upper West Side.

At Rockefeller Center, traffic lights were out. Some buildings in Rockefeller Plaza had lights on, others were dark.

The outage comes on the anniversary of the 1977 New York City outage that left most of the city without power.

Many Broadway musicals and plays canceled their Saturday evening shows, including "Hadestown," which last month won the Tony Award for best musical. Several cast members from the show put on an impromptu performance in the street outside the theater for disappointed audience members.

Emily Totero, 30, planned to bring out-of-town guests to see "Moulin Rouge." But once they got to the theater district, they saw the power go out.

"You could see all the theater lights across the street, all the marquees went out. That's what we noticed first," she said.

Some shows like "Frozen" were among the Broadway shows to announce it had canceled performances.

When the lights went out early Saturday evening, thousands of people streamed out of darkened Manhattan buildings, crowding Broadway next to bumper-to-bumper traffic.

People in Hell's Kitchen began directing traffic themselves as stoplights and walking signs went dark.

Ginger Tidwell, a dance teacher and Upper West Side resident, was about to order at the West Side diner on Broadway and West 69th Street just before 7 p.m.

"When the lights started flickering, and then were out," she said. "We got up and left, walking up Broadway with all the traffic lights out and businesses dark."

But once they got to West 72nd Street, they found another diner that was open and had power.

"It was still sunny and everyone just came out to the street because they lost power and air conditioning; it was super-crowded," she said. "Everyone was hanging out on the street on a nice night. All you could hear was fire trucks up and down Broadway. All of Broadway was without traffic lights."


Associated Press reporters Michael Sisak and Leezel Tanglao contributed to this report.

On the Second Try, Both Found a Partner in Business and for Life - The New York Times

Posted: 13 Jul 2019 03:02 AM PDT

Because marriage is an ever-evolving experience, we constantly shift, change and, in some cases, start over. In It's No Secret, couples share thoughts about commitment and tell us what they have learned along the way, revealing their secret to making it work.

Who Abby Mouzakitis-Fazio, 59, and John Fazio, 70

Occupations Both are pharmacists. Together they own and operate New London Pharmacy, a 70-year-old drugstore in New York.

Their Marriage 28 years, 10 months and counting

Abby Mouzakitis and John Fazio were married Aug. 15, 1993, before 85 people in Agios Stefanos Avliotes, Greece, Ms. Mouzakitis's hometown.

"John walked to the church first, then I walked with my family," Ms. Ms. Mouzakitis-Fazio said. "Violins played in the background. My parents owned a hotel and restaurant nearby and cooked for the wedding the entire weekend."

The couple live in Manhasset, N.Y., and have two daughters, 37 and 18, and a son, 24.

Ms. Mouzakitis-Fazio was raised in a sheltered Greek household. Her parents lived around the corner from the New London Pharmacy on 23rd Street and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. In 1976, they gave her permission to work there part time as a cashier. Mr. Fazio was then a partner in the pharmacy.

"I was 16 and very shy, John was 11 years older than me," Ms. Mouzakitis-Fazio said. "I liked him. I didn't think he liked me back."

He did, even though he was married at the time. Over the next two years, there were deep glances and flirting. The two would have breakfast or coffee together, they would hold hands, and he would walk her home.

"We would write little notes to each other, he would kiss me on my forehead," she said. "A slow love was happening without either of us knowing it. I always wanted to be with him, talk to him, but it wasn't allowed because he wasn't Greek and he was married, but not happily."

Ms. Mouzakitis-Fazio knew she had to find someone else, and in 1980 she met a man on a bus going from New York to Washington. "We were going to a rally for Cyprus to protest in front of the White House," she said. "He was from the same Greek Island as my family and part of my Greek community. He had charisma. I made it O.K. in my mind, but it wasn't."

The two wed a year later. "At my wedding I kept wishing John would save me and marry me instead," she said. "My husband made me quit my job, so I would call John once a week just to hear his voice."

Ms. Mouzakitis-Fazio gave birth to a daughter. Two years later she got divorced and moved back home with her parents. In 1984, she returned to the two things that brought her comfort: New London Pharmacy and Mr. Fazio. This time she was promoted to technician, and simultaneously went back to school for a master's degree in pharmacy.

"We quickly realized we still felt the same way about each other," she said. "So I sent him a card telling him to meet me at the Hilton with the time and the room number and waited. I didn't know if he would show but he did. It was magic."

The pair continued to grow closer, she said. Mr. Fazio separated from his wife in 1989 and divorced a year later. During that time, he and Ms. Mouzakitis-Fazio moved in together. The following year he proposed in their kitchen.


Ms. Mouzakitis-Fazio I'm the risk taker and dreamer. He makes something a reality and is more cautious and conservative. He's compassionate, gentle, and gives great advice. He holds my hand when I'm afraid. He makes me feel loved and pretty. All my trust is in him. He was my savior. When I entered a room, I would have to find him first with my eyes and then I would feel at ease. I still do that. So does he.

We've learned what makes each other happy, to meet halfway and figure things out together. I've learned things will work out. I was afraid we wouldn't have enough time because he's older, so we make things count. He's taught me patience, to be less judgmental, to not criticize, to reinforce positivity with our children. I've learned there are different, kinder ways to say something. He's learned how to have fun, to relax and laugh more. He's serious and thinks a lot. It took him a while to just sit and watch a movie.

I feel we have a more loving relationship than most people. We still go to hotels a few times a year, it helps us to stay connected.

From the first moment I met him, I knew we were meant to end up like this. It took us so long because we had to be ready for each other. But we found our way back. The person I became because of a bad marriage, from going to school and graduating, and being a single mother made me into the person ready for this relationship.

CreditJoe Carrotta for The New York Times

Mr. Fazio I was already married when I met Abby. We were very drawn to each other. We knew we had something special. But she was 16 and too young. I was willing to wait. I realized my first marriage wasn't working. It wasn't as real as I thought it was.

Abby was different than most of the girls — kinder, softer, not defensive, nice to look at and talk to. I loved watching her. I loved the way she talked and spoke. I still do. She's the most dedicated wife and mother. She's sensitive to other people's needs. She's stable. She makes me feel calm, reassured and comfortable. Her patience is better than mine. I've learned when you're angry, don't say anything until the next day. That way you're calm and rational and you don't say anything you don't mean.

I've learned you're half of something — together you're part of a whole — that nothing happens you can't resolve in two or three days within the family structure.

She's given me strength and confidence. She makes me smile, even if she's drinking a cup of coffee, and that makes me feel good.

We have the same goals. We understand what makes the other person tick, so we avoid pressing each other's buttons. I get enjoyment in watching what makes her happy.

We used to have big parties with lots of people, but half of them are fake. By looking at each other everybody else would disappear. It was like that then, and now. I'd rather just be with her.

I didn't realize what existed until I met Abby. I never stopped thinking about her. After she left, I wrote her letters every day for 10 years to keep our relationship alive. She kept each one. I didn't think her coming back was a possibility, but we got a second chance.

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