Wilson allays local anxieties
CAROL A. CLARK Monitor Senior Reporter
More than 100 businesspeople joined Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., for lunchtime enchiladas at the Hilltop House Hotel on Tuesday as the congresswoman addressed Los Alamos National Laboratory small business initiatives and updated the group on congressional issues.
"The situation with this laboratory is about to take off and you're all positioned very well," Wilson told the businesspeople.
Wilson serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over issues such as energy. This includes DOE/NNSA and national laboratories, public health, telecommunications and hazardous materials. She said she meets regularly with LANL Director Michael Anastasio.
She told the audience how a friend of hers at LANL told her that change, even good change creates anxiety. She said businesspeople have a chance to show that the set-asides for small business are resulting in exceptional quality and service.
"I think we've got a prime contractor committed to this and a business community ready for it - and you've got my 100-percent support," Wilson said.
Wilson started Keystone International Inc. in 1991. Contracting with large institutional buyers, both government and prime contractors, has given Wilson personal experience into issues facing small business owners. She has made small business initiatives one of her key priorities and conducts quarterly site visits to small businesses to keep apprised of relevant small business issues.
During Tuesday's luncheon, Anna Muller, NEDA Business Consultants president, said Los Alamos National Security, LLC, has committed to a 50 percent small business goal. The crowd of business owners from throughout the region cheered and applauded. Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation Executive Director Kevin Holsapple promised that his organization would do everything they can to help the laboratory meet that goal.
Doris Heim, LANL associate director of business services, explained that the 50 percent goal has actually been in the LANS contract since June. Changes to reporting requirements have made that goal very difficult to reach but Heim said LANS remains totally committed. In years past, the goals were in the 40s, she said, adding that LANS' 10 percent increase equates to more than $100 million for small business.
The laboratory is currently at 35-37 percent and won't be able to reach their 50 percent goal by the end of this fiscal year. "We are putting systems and processes and knowledge in place this year to better achieve our goals next year," Heim said.
He continued, "I'm very happy to hear Congresswoman Wilson speak so highly of the laboratory. For us to be working closely with businesses and the congressional delegates is where we want to go. Our new management is very committed to small business and it encourages me to know we are making a difference."
Muller called her organization's experience with the new management "outstanding. It has been a delightful experience for all of us in leadership positions," Muller said. "All of the contracts, all of the JITs are going out to small business." There has never been a laboratory in history that has ever done that. The congresswoman has been listening to me rave about our new association with these new operators."
Tuesday's event was co-sponsored by the Bandelier Chapter of the National Contract Management Association, the New Mexico 8(a) and Minority Business Association, the Northern New Mexico Supplier Alliance and the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce.