Looming large at Fluor
Making the Team | Some projects require 75 percent small-business participation
- By Gary Arlen
- Jul 09, 2007
Fluor Corp.'s Lee Eron
In March, Lee Eron of Fluor Corp.'s federal services business attended a Small Business Administration regional conference in Atlanta. By June, four of the small-business companies she met there had come to her group's Greenville, S.C., office to meet with Fluor program managers and plan projects in which they will participate.
"Our projects are so large that one supplier cannot [handle] everything we need," Eron said. For that reason, the group continues to attend trade shows and other events to recruit additional suppliers. She cited a water project in Iraq in which Fluor's intended goal called for small businesses to handle about 10 percent of the work. As it turned out, 74 percent of the activity was subcontracted.
"We relied on small suppliers for equipment and materials" on that project, she said. "We have one [upcoming] contract with 78 percent of the work [to] be subcontracted."
Many Fluor projects exceed small-business targets, usually because of the scale of the projects and the ongoing changes in requirements, especially for overseas activities.
Fluor is a newcomer to Washington Technology's Top 100 ranking of the largest government contractors. Fluor debuted at No. 8 on the list, with $2.8 billion in government contracts. This year's Top 100 looked at a broader range of government services than just information technology. In addition to construction and supply projects worldwide, Fluor's most visible projects include nuclear clean-up, water and communications services and Federal Emergency Management Agency support.
Fluor's greatest continuing need is for equipment and material delivery and distribution, Eron said. Some industrial projects require custom engineering and production of components for specific installations. For a Defense Department operation, Fluor's in-house engineering team designed the system and then brought in small businesses to build specific components.Advice: Register or Call
Eron prefers small business partners to register on SCORE, the supplier portion of Flour's Web site that stands for Supplier and Contractor Online Registry E-version. "That way we have an immediate record of the contact and we can send out materials" about appropriate projects, she said.
The registration process can be lengthy, but it gives Fluor the detailed information it needs to search for partners by location, diversity status and other factors that are often fundamental to specific projects, she said. FEMA projects, in particular, must go to businesses in or near a devastated region.
"Every time there's a requirement, I go to SCORE," she said. But Eron and her colleague Debra Sampson also field phone calls from prospective partners. Fluor Federal's database of about 3,000 small businesses is also shared with the parent company's commercial side, which often has different requirements and small-business partner needs.
"If we know that a person we're talking to fits into [commercial] categories, we suggest they contact [our colleagues over there]," Eron volunteered.
Eron also monitors the Central Contractor Registration. She urged small businesses to provide as much detail as possible about their capabilities on that site.
Fluor's program managers assess small businesses when requirements are identified to assure that the partners can handle the work, Eron said.Variety of Projects
For Defense contracts, Fluor's small-business partners have supplied materials and engineered equipment. Other recent projects included satellite earth station installation and operations. Fluor's State Department contracts have focused primarily on equipment and materials shipped to embassies.
On the home front, Fluor is one of the major contractors for FEMA, working on disaster relief projects, including response in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Wilma.
Fluor also has a unit to handle nuclear waste and recovery projects, notably the Hanford facility in Washington state.
At another nuclear clean-up, the Fernald facility near Cincinnati, Fluor recently completed its task about eight years ahead of schedule; 45 percent of the work was handled by subcontractors, well above the 34 percent goal originally intended.
With a large number of projects in its pipeline, including engineering work for the Air Force, logistics for the Defense Department and contingency operations for the Army, the company will have a steady stream of work for small-business partners, Eron said.Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications Inc., a Bethesda, Md., research firm. He can be reached at GaryArlen@columnist.com