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This article is a follow up to the 2019 UT CIS article.
In 2019, UT CIS interviewed Abe Mbow, co-founder of Skilled Workforce and a Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) client in Nashville. Skilled Workforce is a labor leasing firm specialize in skilled labor augmentation and workforce development. The company matches skilled laborers with job opportunities in the construction, manufacturing, and warehousing industries.
Mbow has been working with PTAC counselor Debbie Barber since 2017. Barber’s role as a PTAC counselor is to help small businesses in Tennessee successfully bid for government contracts.
“As a newer venture in 2017, the idea of going after government contracting was overwhelming,” says Mbow . “I had to take a few steps back to learn and understand how it could all come together, from finding the right solicitations to writing proposals.”
A lot has changed at Skilled Workforce since the 2019 interview. Mbow became the sole owner of the company through partnership buyout. He expanded Skilled Workforce capabilities and diversified its activities through the addition of a general contracting arm (Build Wright Contractors) to complement the company’s skilled labor staffing operations. He partnered with a Knoxville based company (Management Solutions) to champion a NCCER workforce development program.
“My team and I grew revenue organically. We added new clients and branched out to a new industry doing medical personnel temp staffing. The company was fortunate to weather the pandemic in 2020 and learned valuable lessons. We refocused on expanding services in our local market to maintain our agility and adapt to the new normal with social distancing/working remotely. A lot has happened in a span of a couple of years!” says Mbow.
Additionally, Skilled Workforce added two sought after certifications (8(a), TDOT) to pave the way for government contracting. The company is currently registered with the small business reserve program with Nashville Metro, is GoDBE certified with TN Governor’s office, SDVOSB with the VA, TDOT/TUCP certified, and recently 8(a) through 2030 with the SBA.
“PTAC assisted me in getting all my major certifications (SDVOSB, 8(a)). I can recall my first meeting with Debbie at her office when I started the business in Nashville…taking me through the various programs, assisting me with my SAM (System for Award Management) registration, reviewing my capability statement, giving me ‘homework’ to educate myself about the different government agencies and their capabilities. I can tell you that the amount of support she provided, her experience and how generous she was with her time allowed me to successfully pursue those certifications” says Mbow.
Mbow is very optimistic that those certifications will soon reach their full potential to impact his business and provide a unique marketplace to showcase Skilled Workforce’s capabilities so that the company can successfully compete for prime contracts.
Now that Mbow and his team have gained more experience in government contracting, he understands the challenges many small businesses face when doing business with the government. He says that business like Skilled Workforce must exactly understand what is required of them, be disciplined in adhering to compliance requirements, be diligent with market research and be open to joint ventures and teaming agreements when going after large solicitations to succeed in government contracting.
“That is why I believe it is important to have allies like PTAC to equip small business owners and their companies with resources and technical competences. They assist in bridging challenges and setting a successful path in government contracting. Organizations like PTAC (Debbie Barber, Paul Middlebrooks), NBIC (Angela Crane-Jones), TDOT (Vince Malone & David Neese), Nashville Metro (Jerval Watson & Christopher Woods) provided valuable assistance and training along the way…they are critical to any small businesses wanting to compete in federal and local markets…I wasn’t left alone to navigate it all” says Mbow.
If you would like to learn more about how Tennessee PTAC counselors can help guide your organization through the federal procurement process, please visit www.ptac.tennessee.edu.