Small businesses are key contributing forces to our economy, so much so that they generate about 50 percent of our gross domestic product (GDP). Or, think of it this way, half of all U.S. adults are either self-employed or work for businesses with fewer than five hundred employees.
Of the $243 million the Denver Service Center awarded in FY 2017, $122 went to small business and socioeconomic programs. In honor of small business week, we wanted to conduct a brief interview with one of our small business firms to get a little insight into their work with the DSC. We talked to Mario Rangel, President of Rangel Construction Company LLC of Rapid City, South Dakota.
Rangel Construction is working on the Mount Rushmore Studio and Residence project that includes rehabilitation work on the Historic Sculptor's Studio and Historic Residence located at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. In 1939, this structure was built as a second on-site studio for sculptor Gutzon Borglum. Unique plaster models and worker tools related to the sculpting processes are displayed in this studio. The studio is targeted to re-open in the spring of 2019.
Q: What does this project mean to Rangel Construction Company LLC?
A: This is a wonderful opportunity for us. For a company of 20 staff members, this project is a significant part of our annual workload. I’m also thrilled about working on this project because of the historical significance of the monument. As someone who loves the art of designing and building it is very special to me that our company is working to modify and improve the original built environment that sculptor Gutzon Borglum worked and lived within.
Q: What was particularly challenging about this project and how did you overcome it?
A: Anytime you work on historic projects you run into unique challenges. These types of projects require us to carefully follow the design documents in place. Inevitably, you run into adjustments that need to be made due to unforeseen conditions. That takes time and patience in order to make sure that the new solution receives all the necessary approvals before moving forward. Historic structures also requires extra care and planning. Specifically, we faced the unique challenge of working around the plaster model sculpture inside of the studio. In order to protect the model and still achieve access above it, our superintendent and craftsmen built barriers around the model, then designed/engineered/built a cantilevering and counter-weighted ladder for worker access.
Q: How did you receive this contract?
A: We learned through the government’s pre-solicitation notice process that the project would be advertised and it appeared to be a great fit for Rangel Construction. So once we saw the request for proposal on fbo.gov, we went to work on putting our proposal together. In addition to price, the request for proposal required past performance information, key staff resumes, a project management plan, a quality control plan, and detailed project schedule. Thus, we simply put our best foot forward and honestly communicated what Rangel Construction could provide. Our company has a great amount of experience working on government projects, and we’ve been also fortunate enough to work on several of South Dakota’s oldest buildings. That experience, along with a well-written plan and a highly dedicated and skilled staff I believe helped us win the contract.
Q: What do you think is unique to your business?
A: One word, craftsmanship! While we adopt practices to automate certain things, we pride ourselves in fostering craftsmanship and making sure our employees have the freedom to cultivate that creativity as if they were working for themselves. You don’t become a craftsman overnight – it takes years to cultivate that special skill and we are patient in making sure we capture that in our work.
Q: What habits helped make you successful?
A: We’ve had success because we understand the importance of relationships. That means starting with our own employees and then looking outward to those that hire us, as well as those companies that subcontract with us. Just as becoming a craftsman takes time, so does building a relationship. Therefore, we strive to earn trust and positive relationships through our performance and interactions (not just a sales pitches or low bids).
Q: Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
A: We’ve had the pleasure of working with many federal agencies over the past nine years, including the Department of Defense (US Air Force and Air National Guard), Department of Agriculture (Forest Service and Job Corps), Department of Interior (National Park Service), General Services Administration, Army Corps of Engineers, Veterans Affairs, and Western Area Power Administration. Each agency has a different style of contract leadership, but it is most refreshing as a small business when the individuals we work with are both compassionate to human and small business limitations, and consistent when it comes to project guidelines and regulations. It is easily recognized when contracting professionals have been encouraged and trained to help small businesses succeed. It has been a pleasure working with and for the National Park Service.