When Being a HUBZone Business is not about Being a “Business”
Written by Curtis Taylor
This article explores the unique nature of a HUBZone certified business and how important the mission is to community and a successful HUBZone business. It discusses practices that have, thus far, proven to be helpful for sustainment of the SBA designation. Linc Research is a young company specializing in Vibration Damping for Aerospace and Structures, Technology Adaptability and Transfer for dual/multi use, Optics design and test, Design/Software Engineering and Senior Expertise in Technology Development and Technical Management.
There are a number of statements about the purpose of a business; in general the purpose has to do with a combination of customers, employees, products and money. I've even heard it said that the purpose of any business is business. But at Linc we approach this in a different way when we look at the HUBZone business category. To be a successful and sustainable HUBZone business you really have to be about the "HUBZone" just as much if not sometimes more than the "Business". Linc does believe that part of the HUBZone outreach is demonstrating a viable business model and the function of capitalism in a free society - so to that extent the “Business” is important. In addition we want people to be able to be all they can and want to be; along with that comes good wages, good benefits, reasonable profits and a chance for all employees to share in the success of the business. It's a delicate balancing act. This balance is not often achieved as the HUBZone Company grows. But does it have to be that way? What if you really live and operate as if the “HUBZone” is truly important? What if community and compassion are more important than power and position? What if taking care of the least of these means that you help people through their career who don't have the same resources and background as you do? What if true religion is taking care of the helpless in your HUBZone neighborhood by mentoring and empowering them through a career path? Below are some thoughts and plans for Linc Research.
First, why is the SBA HUBZone designation different from other SBA designations? It's different because it is the only major SBA designated category that targets a group of people and an area. The other categories are about what the owner and CEO are while the HUBZone category is about the employees living in a HUBZone designated area and the location of the company HQ/principal address in a HUBZone designated area. The only HUBZone requirement on the owners is to be majority owned by US citizens (this isn’t a problem).
Second, why is it about a target group of people and area? From the SBA website's HUBZone section: "SBA's HUBZone program is in line with the efforts of both the Administration and Congress to promote economic development and employment growth in distressed areas by providing access to more federal contracting opportunities." At Linc we took that statement, which we firmly believe in, one step further; our stated goal at Linc is not just to provide jobs but to provide careers; it’s not just economics it’s empowerment. We do that in a tactical sense and a strategic sense. We not only want to provide careers to currently eligible employees now but also to provide career visioning to the entire HUBZone community including schools down to the elementary level. The other aspect to our career emphasis is that we feel we should be representative of the large high-tech workforce in the Huntsville, Alabama area. The principals of the company all have a NASA/DOD/commercial high-tech resume and want to work and mentor in those areas. We seek a footprint that is much larger and much longer lived than the company itself.
What are Linc's goals to accomplish these tactical and strategic emphases? On the opening page of our Capability Briefing we describe two main company missional statements (i.e.; goal posts) (1) we desire to be problem solvers and innovators in the high tech arena and (2) we desire to be partners in the restoration of circumstantially disadvantaged (we sometimes use the words “under resourced”) communities and its’ peoples. Furthermore, our first chart is about why we exist and the second chart is about what we do. We focus as much on the “Why” as the “What”. Linc is in this mission beyond the first big contract; therefore, we are as much about the “HUBZone” as the “Business”.
How will Linc accomplish these goals? A) From a day to day office standpoint our Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) sign up to mentor younger employees and especially the HUBZone employees who may have not had the opportunity to work in high-tech areas. Furthermore, the SMEs are expected to create opportunities for meaningful employment on a NASA, DOD or commercial contract. B) Linc believes in a long term pipeline approach in our neighborhoods from evangelizing STEM to elementary schools, to mentoring two year college students in the kinds of careers we provide all the way to employment of at least one HUBZone employee in the office, learning and waiting to be placed on a contract; not just anyone – someone capable and willing to step in. C) Outside the office it’s all about being in the communities (in deed and not just in word) and utilizing networks and expertise of the organizations that are already vested and active in the community.
To give the mission “hands and feet” Linc is working on six HUBZone initiatives: 1) Workforce NOW! (WfN!) is a coalition of businesses and non-profits, designed to empower people in these neighborhoods who want a high tech career representative of high tech HUBZone companies and to provide career visioning for the next generation (working with the next generation will empower students to become the next generation of SMEs). WfN! Is focused on three pillars: Job Skills (mostly tactical), Life Skills (tactical and strategic) and Mentoring (strategic). 2) Partnering in the planning for a program, called SAFE Solutions, to provide alternative lending options to high interest rate “predatory lending” in conjunction with financial education in these communities. 3) Conducting a Space Art Contest in local Title I elementary schools or community organizations; Linc conducted this on its own initiative the first year and now it has been adopted and made more effective by the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) employees and contracting community. 4) Linc, in conjunction with two of our non-profit partners, created a guide on how to build an Elementary school STEM Lab based on a successful STEM Lab at a local Title I school. The hope is this might inspire an initiative, nationwide, to place STEM Labs at every Title I elementary school. 5) Since Linc seeks to be agents of change in our neighborhoods we will put into place an initiative to empower our HUBZone employees to create concepts to improve conditions on their street; the company will fund the selected concept while the employees will be empowered with these funds to accomplish the improvement working with the neighbors.
Lastly, while it is not an initiative, a Mentor-Protégé Agreement with a company who is willing to help Linc grow the company, with these foci, is important and very beneficial. It’s also beneficial that the Agencies who sponsor the agreements (NASA HQ, NASA MSFC and SBA) also value this process.
- Linc just completed such an agreement with Jacobs Technology, Inc. under the NASA Mentor-Protégé Program. Jacobs not only allowed Linc to grow positions under the NASA MSFC ESSSA contract but also worked with Linc in tangible and valuable ways on Linc’s initiatives.
- Linc is just beginning an All Small Mentor-Protégé Agreement under SBA’s All Small Program. Our Mentor is MTS, Inc. MTS will not only provide valuable training, mentoring and support under the Agreement but also will Joint Venture with Linc to create a HUBZone JV which will also be capable of competing on Total Small Business set-asides. MTS has been participating in tangible ways in Linc’s HUBZone neighborhood for many years now through volunteering and donating.