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State stimulus money for Montana goes to out-of-state firms

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May 31, 2009View for printing

Tens of millions of federal stimulus dollars intended to put Montanans to work may never make it to the state, as they already have been promised to large, multinational corporations.

Meanwhile, local companies - which are fully qualified to do the work - continue to lay off employees.

“We have the experience, and we have the expertise,” said Ken Richardson, of CTA Architects Engineers . “We have everything in place to do the job. But they've taken a more global approach, rather than a state-by-state approach.”

Richardson's firm employs about 350, with the vast majority working at its eight Montana offices, including ones in Missoula and Kalispell. They design and engineer big construction projects, including government projects. In the last several years, for instance, CTA built four new border stations in Montana and North Dakota.

By MICHAEL JAMISON of the Missoulian

Full Story: ... /news04.txt


Concerns of stimulus funding intended for Montana being directed to out-of-state companies

Concerns of stimulus funding intended for Montana being directed to out-of-state companies May 14, 2009 View for printing

The opportunities being LOST here are too important to the Montana economy, to not put up a fight.

We believe it may be too late for CTA and other design firms, but not for the construction phase services. Montana professionals need to do what they can for their local contractors, suppliers, trades, etc. and the trickle down of these dollars through the local economy.

Pasted in below is a summary of what is known to date.

Please let me know if you have any questions.



Ken Richardson

CTA Architects Engineers

306 West Railroad Ave.

Missoula, MT 59802



Cell: 406-581-9092


Several weekends ago, there was a news release from Senator’s Baucus and Tester about $77,400,000 being secured for 5 border stations on the US / Canada International Border in Montana.

The current status related to this funding:

There is actually $420,000,000 in funding for 43 border stations in the stimulus bill – most on the northern border (only 4 on the southern border). The following link is to the DHS press release, provides a listing of the locations by state. (put cursor on link, hold down the ‘ctrl’ button on the keyboard and then left click)

Shortcut to: ... 82009_6.xml

8 locations are listed for Montana - Del Bonita, Morgan, Opheim, Scobey, Whitetail, Whitlash, Wild Horse and Willow Creek.

The intent is to replace 23 border stations along the border and renovate the other 20. Of the 23 new, 9 will be done by GSA, 9 will be done by the Corps of Engineers, and 5 will be done by DHS. They will then compete with each other to see who can deliver the projects the quickest.

The confirmation is that DHS has already hired Parsons Engineering, a nationwide architecture and engineering (A/E) firm, to do all of the front end work, preliminary design and preparation of the technical packages that will be used to procure these projects. That includes design of each port up to approx. a 50% status.

Parsons is a 10,000+ employee firm that billed $1,500,000,000 in 2008. Ninth largest firm in the US according to ENR Magazine Top 500 listing. Headquartered in Pasadena, CA.

Jacobs Engineering (50,000 person national firm) will be doing all implementation/procurement and construction phase services. Jacobs billed $4,300,000,000 in 2008 and is #2 in size per ENR’s Top 500 firms. Also headquartered in Pasadena, CA.

The reason their firm size is important, is that virtually NO companies in Montana can compete with these mega-sized firms that obviously have very deep roots into DHS and GSA, and probably the COE. Montana companies don’t have the resources or lobbyist connections to compete – they were on board before the money was even announced to the public, so how could any Montana companies compete?

Further, GSA intends to use in-place Design/Build contractors – there will NOT be competitive bids for construction by Montana based General Contractors for any of the ports located in Montana. Senator Baucus’ office has the names of the contractors, all are from out of state, and they already include A/E’s on their teams, plus consultants.

The COE intends to use in-place MATOC (multiple award task order contract) contractors – there will NOT be competitive bids for construction by Montana base General Contractors. Like the GSA contractors, Senator Baucus’ office has the list, NO Montana contractors.

DHS intends to use Native American Contractors for their 5 projects – again, NO Montana based contractors.

It’s highly likely that no Montana based architecture; engineering or general contracting firms will be involved in these projects.

So – is this the intent of the Stimulus spending? One of the largest A/E firms in the world is getting 100% of the professional services work on the design and front end of these projects. Another of the largest firms in the world is getting 100% of the implementation and construction oversight contracts on the GSA projects. Two government agencies, the GSA and Corps of Engineers will get all of the management and oversight.

Out of state contractors that are already in-place will get all the construction.

And Montana architects, engineers and general contractors will evidently get nothing. Hopefully local subcontractors and suppliers will be allowed to participate.

The information provided is that, on at least the GSA locations, the solicitation packages will be out in June. Awards will be made in August. A very aggressive schedule. Just in time for construction to begin on the hi-line of Montana during the winter.

It’s curious that even though California was well rewarded in the stimulus, with billions upon billions upon billions of dollars, that the US Government is going to use California firms for delivery of these Montana projects. So the comparatively modest amount that Montana did get ($ 77.4 M), goes to firms from California.

Key Points from all of the above:

· $330,000,000 of work essentially went to a SINGLE firm, Parsons. Parsons is doing 100% of the design work related to preparation of the technical solicitation packages. Jacobs Engineering will be doing Program Management in the construction phase for GSA.

· How many small businesses in Montana, and the other states involved, could have been helped by getting a portion of this work? To give it all to these two firms goes beyond the limits of belief – the stimulus was supposed to help ‘everyone’, but it appears that DHS, the COE, and GSA have chose to help only a selected few with this funding.

· They are using mega sized nationwide contracts, instead of pushing the work to the states – the benefit to the states is zilch. Mega firms in the large urban centers, that probably already received more stimulus money that Montana, are getting the entirety of this work also.

· There is no need for all of the speed of Solicitation and Award – slower would actually be better. The northern border of MT and ND, where the majority of this work lies, cannot support the volume of construction that this work represents. So most of it will go to out of area, or out of state firms. Why not slow it down, do 2-3 per year in MT and ND each, then local contractors and suppliers can compete and they’d have work for 3-4 years, in lieu of simply pushing this huge amount of work out in a single package.

· They are bidding these in August – with awards following. That means that construction of $100,000,000+ of construction work will start on the northern border of MT and ND late fall, so that foundations and site work will be done in the heart of the winter. That’s not the ideal weather to begin this large of a construction program. Why not award to more local firms, design this winter, bid in the spring and start construction in late spring after everything thaws out. Why the rush, except that the Corps and GSA are competing to see who can deliver these the quickest – thus be the preferred provider for the next round of funding.

· Summary – what appeared to be a real benefit to the very slow economy of Montana, is in fact, not much of a benefit at all. The majority of the $77.4 M will never see Montana. Companies across Montana are faced with laying off good employees, while dollars intended to prevent this are directed elsewhere. It is time the federal government started acting more responsibly. Let your delegation know your thoughts.

Reader Comments:

I see Mr Richardson's plight has been thwarted by the old, "if you can't beat'um, join'um" approach, as referenced in the excerpt below;

January 18, 2010 10:45 AM Mountain Standard Time
C3 Awarded US Fish & Wildlife Service Contract
DENVER, Colorado ? C3, LLC, a privately held joint venture between MCC Construction Corporation (MCC), Catamount Constructors, Inc, (Catamount) and CTA Architects Engineers (CTA), has been awarded a $400,000,000, five year multiple award task order contracting (MATOC) design-build contract for the western United States by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), located in Arlington, Virginia. The contract, which is one of six awarded nationwide, can also be used by other Department of Interior Agencies including the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Minerals Management Service and the Office of Surface Mining. Currently, MCC, Catamount and CTA are collectively working on nine additional government projects nationwide.

Don't get me wrong I commend Mr Richardson for taking the approach he did to possibly not only secure his company's viability in it's home state of Montana,but extend it's reach well beyond it's borders.
Sadly I'm starting to believe (given only my recent, & so far, very limited research on the subject) that MATOC's are robbing medium & small sized firms of many contracting opportunities, & may very well be costing the US taxpayers more money task per task than traditional sealed bid/fixed price approach of the past.
So here we have $400 million dollars worth of task orders (aka contracts) in the western United states, that could have otherwise been let out to bid on a smaller contract by contract basis. Allowing more of a free market approach, being held by one joint venture company.
Yes, there no doubt will be subcontracting opportunities working for the MATOC holders, but will they be advertised through the FBO?, just how the work be contracted out from the MATOC holders?, ..will the subcontracting opportunities ultimately be offered (or given) to only a chosen few like the MATOCs themselves?.
Will there soon no longer even be a need for a FBO website?.
Will we soon have just a small handful of contractors handling our nation's infrastructure work?,
Is this an attempt to privatize some government departments?, if so, do we get to layoff all the Government employees that previously handled many of the functions these MATOCs will now seem to be covering?. Ie: Design/engineering?, contract management?, ..even inspection of work?.
--Ditch Digger

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