Strafford, Mo. residents Danny Minor and his wife Carol faced a major crisis in 2009. It was similar to one that millions of people across the country have been facing during the past two years ... loss of family income due to a lost job.
While the Minor's crisis was difficult, it was not insurmountable. With their determination, talent and expertise the Minors turned a bad situation into a positive one with the help of Mary Love, a Springfield-based specialist in government contracting with the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (MO PTAC).
Danny has more than 25 years experience in the electrical and electronics field. He worked for Dayco in Springfield and Detroit Tool & Engineering in Kansas City before starting his own business with a partner in 1997. Their Marshfield-based venture — Innovative Controls Engineering — assembled and sold electrical control panels and custom equipment for a variety of applications, such as washers and dryers.
ICE succeeded for nearly 10 years, but times got rough when Whirlpool bought Maytag. Soon afterwards Whirlpool ceased capital spending and revenue plummeted for Danny's company. He and his partner stared bankruptcy in the face.
They averted insolvency when the Paul Mueller Co. in Springfield made an offer to buy ICE's assets and hire Danny in July 2008. All went well until the fall of 2009 when that company downsized due to dwindling business and let Danny go.
Not ones to be easily discouraged, Danny and Carol decided to devote their full efforts to a new business they had started in January 2009 as a sideline ... Greenwood Engineering and Manufacturing LLC. The couple took a MO PTAC class in government contract solicitation from Mary Love about a year ago.
"Mary's class got us going and her advice and encouragement kept us going," says Danny. "Once we got started we found the government contract solicitation process was simple. You fill in the blanks and then submit. Of course, you have to know what you're doing. That's where Mary's instruction has really helped."
Carol is GEM's owner and bookkeeper. Danny handles the bid reviews and contract applications. He targets contracts for the manufacture of electrical panels and cables, and for small metal fabrication projects. Danny makes the panels. Their 21-year-old son Caleb, an expert welder, works the metal jobs. Nathan, 19 and a draftsman, provides detailed drawings and also helps assemble the cables. Youngest son Jared, 14, is the gofer and janitor.
"It's a true family effort," says Carol. "The only one of our sons not involved in the business is 22-year-old Jacob, who has his own job and is recently married."
Danny usually spends several hours a day reviewing 300-400 possible bid opportunities. He typically narrows those down to under 30 workable bids.
"Most are relatively small jobs in the $3,000-$10,000 range, but they make up in number what they lack in volume," says Danny. "Besides, these are the contract sizes we can handle with a small home-based workshop.
"Some of these jobs are for aircraft. Some have maritime applications. Still with others, we don't know what they're for exactly. The military provides the specs and we assemble the product."
Danny has advice for anyone with manufacturing capability looking to do small contract jobs for the government like he and his family are doing: "Be patient. I'm sending out three to 15 bids a day. It took a while for the first contracts to arrive. But be ready, because business can start coming in.
"If you're small, you don't have the sales force and can't afford the overhead. Just make sure you have your funding in place to buy materials upfront. The government pays like clockwork within 30 days of billing, but not before."
Currently Minors get about two-thirds of their business through government contracts. The other one-third comes from commercial orders. Danny hopes when the economy turns around that ratio will flip the other way.
"The most critical factor is funding. When big private outfits can't get funded right now, how can we expect to get a loan? But we'll make it. You've just got to keep after it. You learn from life."
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This story was featured in the August 2010 newsletter
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