Beyond courtship

Making the team | How to land the right partners

Bechtel National Inc.

Number of partners:

10,000 companies, including small-business subcontractors

Recent and upcoming projects:

Energy Department: field remediation, including construction, technical services, engineering and professional services.

Federal Emergency Management Agency, Army, Navy

For more information:

Small-business advocates for projects are listed at


Jeannie Houston

Supplier development and diversity program manager

Bechtel National Inc.

(865) 220-2240

Special requirements:

Geographical presence on some projects, bonding and safety programs for construction projects, and insurance

When do subcontractors become involved?

Subcontractors are recruited during the bidding phase or after the contract is in place.

Bechtel's Jeannie Houston

Bechtel National Inc. has found some unexpected ways to meet new partners that can help further the company's strategies.

Last year, for example, Bechtel sent some of its Defense Department small-business advocates to an Energy Department conference. Although the conference wasn't DOD-focused, the advocates found new partners that could help with DOD projects.

"Mixing it up by going [outside] your specific field ... seems just to work," said Jeannie Houston, supplier development and diversity program manager at Bechtel Systems and Infrastructure Inc., one of Bechtel's six global business units.

Houston emphasized that the Bechtel business units constantly trade information.
"Our database is shared globally, so when [companies] register, they register for all of us," she said.

To facilitate the interchange of information, Bechtel has small-business advocates within each unit's procurement department. They not only try to match providers to appropriate projects at other Bechtel divisions but also look out for prospective alliances elsewhere.

The small-business advocates for every project are listed, along with their e-mail addresses and phone numbers in a special section of the supplier registration database.

"Our need for supplies and services are project driven," she said. "Our Web site contains a 90- to 120-day look-ahead schedule for upcoming work on individual projects" in addition to the rolling schedule listing needs for the next three years.

Bechtel customers include the National Nuclear Security Administration and its Y-12 National Security Complex, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Plant, the Savannah River Site, Yucca Mountain and the Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant.

Flexible process

Bechtel recruits small-business team members through a variety of techniques. Its managers participate in events where small businesses are seeking relationships. During its history, Bechtel has had about two-dozen mentor/protégé relationships.

In addition to its own database, Bechtel reviews the Central Contractor Registration and agency contacts.

Subcontractors are sometimes brought in during the bidding process, which is why the long-range project roster is so important, Houston said.

However, because the scope often changes during project development, Bechtel frequently brings small businesses aboard after a contract is in place.

"This is dependent on the requirements of the [request for proposals] and the needs of our customer," Houston said.

She encourages prospective partners to check into the registration database frequently.

In addition to looking for local companies, Bechtel officials cull the company registration lists for qualified suppliers when building the company's bid lists.

Houston said Bechtel has a number of repeat small-business suppliers, including Dynamac Corp., which has participated in Bechtel's mentor/protégé program.
Dynamac, of Rockville, Md., worked on an ISO 14001 certification for environmental management systems.

Another current protégé is North Wind Inc., an Idaho Falls, Idaho, company that is working on Bechtel's Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project.

Houston said North Wind has tripled its revenue since becoming a protégé.

Houston said working with Bechtel's small-business advocates is one of the best ways to connect with the company.

Almost always, she said, "someone is available ... to discuss opportunities with small businesses."

Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications in Bethesda, Md. He can be reached at

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