When the residential construction business began to take a dive as the U.S. economy started to tumble in 2008, Lawrence and Laura Fierro needed to find something else to keep their business, Fierro Enterprises, LLC, going strong.
The Fierros, custom homebuilders for residential customers in Las Cruces, started looking into government contracts with the help of Senior PTAP Advisor Elke Mosholder after meeting her at an event.
One of the Fierros’ first contracting jobs was with the U.S. Army, replacing a septic tank in the wilderness near Cloudcroft. Other jobs include adding safety doors and air conditioning to the guard shacks for Las Cruces Public Schools. The company has also worked for New Mexico State University remodeling the Corbett Center Student Union, and the Center for Countermeasures at the White Sands Missile Range installing the heating, venting and cooling systems, among other projects.
Laura Fierro said for the past few years she and her husband have made the hour-long drive to Alamogordo to see Elke for help on bids, making sure that all the information is correct, and guidance on what questions to ask and which contracting officer to follow up with.
“When you first start contracting, understanding how the building process works to the government specifications and the requirements is a learning curve. It’s also very complex as far as the paperwork,” Laura Fierro said. “When you get that first contract there is no one to teach you how to do it and you have to learn how to do it on your own. But that’s where PTAP comes in very handy.”
In 2011, the company obtained 8(a) status and since has built structures and had other projects, including plumbing, road and flood control work at White Sands.
Although it was challenging in the beginning, the Fierros have enjoyed the federal work.
“The best part has been the opportunity to branch out into a different market that we didn’t even know existed,” Laura Fierro said. “We were able to put our name out there in a different setting of construction. And it’s been steady—it’s been positive growth for the company to learn a different division of the industry. It’s been good.”
The Fierros offer this advice to small business owners who are interested in federal contracting: “Prepare and get well organized. You have to follow the government requirements to the T. You need to have very good communication skills, and be very conscientious about timelines,” said Laura Fierro. “That’s how you will succeed.”