Environmental and energy opportunities abound at NC military installations
From remediation services to water filtration to geothermal installation, the military bases around North Carolina are ripe with environmental and energy opportunities for local businesses.Posted — Updated
The federal government consumes a significant amount of energy. With hundreds of bases and buildings around the world, installation energy — or the energy needed to do things like heat and light the installation — accounts for 80 percent of all federal energy consumption.
In North Carolina alone, there are six major military bases, 116 National Guard and 40 Army Reserve facilities, which translates to a hefty amount of energy use. In order to reduce spending and improve resiliency, it's crucial for the government to find the most efficient ways to put this energy to use.
For many businesses, this may provide surprising ways to leverage new business. The N.C. Military Business Center connects businesses around the state with opportunities with the federal government, and the environmental and energy industries are no exception.
"Within that energy field, one major component is figuring out how to be energy efficient with existing facilities on the base. Then you have stand-alone projects, which means you could put up a solar farm or install geothermal equipment," said Sue Kranes, the infrastructure team lead at the NCMBC. "Then, you have site cleanup, where you go in and clear out asbestos in walls or conduct mold remediation. You can do indoor/ outdoor water clean up — in other words, different types of water filters that really strain out all the contaminants. Really, there are a lot of projects that can be done individually, not even necessarily in relationship to a construction contract."
At the NCMBC, Kranes uses her previous experience as chief of acquisitions with Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic to help North Carolina businesses identify and secure federal contracts in a variety of industries, including architecture, engineering, construction, and maintenance.
For Kranes, the energy and environmental opportunities offered by the federal government are ripe with opportunity for a wide variety of businesses, whether they provide erosion control services, historical building restoration, or contamination cleanup. By signing up for the NCMBC's MatchForce database, local businesses can be matched up with relevant energy and environmental opportunities at North Carolina bases — for free.
And Kranes has a point — there's plenty of work to go around. In fact, the Department of Defense recently spent $7 billion on construction projects on military bases around North Carolina a few years ago, and will spend $1.7 billion on new construction just at Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point in 2020.
For local businesses, that means ample opportunity.
"It's no secret that all military operations worldwide have historically had extensive environmental concerns. Our installations here in North Carolina are no exception. If you're rebuilding a base, there's usually demolition that has to take place. Back when those bases were initially built, common building materials included things like asbestos and lead-based paint, so whenever they come down, the abatement of those materials is necessary before new construction can go up," said James Shannon, vice president of program development at SR&R Environmental, Inc. "As these installations are modernizing and rebuilding or expanding, they are going to run into those environmental concerns, and companies like ours and many others in the state will benefit from that."
At SR&R Environmental, Shannon and his colleagues provide services like industrial cleaning, remediation, spill response and waste management. In establishing and growing the business, the NCMBC has been instrumental, offering valuable resources and identifying areas of opportunity.
"All of the people that work for them are just top-notch individuals — and they're knowledgeable. To have somebody with that background and expertise to be able to guide you through the maze of the federal contracting world is really invaluable, especially to the small businesses that don't have the infrastructure and the administrative backup to dedicate somebody to do that," Shannon said. "Big companies have that. They can hire a person to do all that, but small business doesn't have that luxury, so the NCMBC has been an invaluable resource."
Among one of the most useful offerings from the NCMBC is their annual construction Summit in Wilmington. Every year, they bring in top military officials from all across the Southeast region to discuss future projects and anticipated spending. Every three years, the summit is preceded by a roundtable that focuses specifically on energy and environmental projects and concerns.
For professionals like Shannon, it's the perfect opportunity to get an inside look at the industry and a step ahead of the competition.
"The roundtable is definitely a view from 30,000 feet," Shannon said. "They get some heavyweight talent to speak at that — people from D.C. and from the military commands — then the summit starts, and you zoom in to 10,000 feet, 5,000 feet and touch and go on the airstrip as you move from session to session."
Shannon has been attending both the roundtable and the Summit for years, even skipping out on his own golf tournament to make an appearance.
"The day before the Summit, the Society of American Military Engineers holds a scholarship fundraising golf tournament, which I'm the chairperson for," Shannon said. "I do play golf, but I don't play golf at my own golf tournament. I go in and get things started, then I skip away and go to the energy and environmental roundtable. I've told Scott Dorney [executive director of the NCMBC], and he and I actually pin down times so that I can get back and forth without missing anything."
It may seem extreme, but the insight and networking opportunities that can be gained from attending the roundtable and Summit make it well-worth the trouble for Shannon. For a small business like his, it offers an upperhand in competing and winning significant federal contracts, as well as learning what the latest updates are in the industry.
"The government talking to industry provides a good gateway, lessons to be learned and a way ahead for local businesses, as well as creating a better relationship with industries that can help accomplish missions on the military bases," Kranes said. "At the North Carolina Military Business Center, the emphasis we are trying to leverage is that there are so many opportunities that are available to anyone in North Carolina if they want to enter the federal market."
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