Freeland Construction lays foundation with 8(a) designation builds with government contracting
CEO Kenneth Cantey is a can do kind of guy. He’s literally a mover and a shaker, as well as a planner and a builder. This civil engineer works on large scale projects like the Long Island Expressway rehab in New York City, the central artery project in Boston and the replacement of Charleston’s beloved Ravenel Bridge.
So when Cantey came to Charleston in 2009 to help grow Freeland Construction, he was ready to build a better business. First he secured an 8(a) designation for the company, which allowed Freeland to compete in a market with set-asides for minority-owned companies. While Cantey encourages other small businesses to look into this opportunity, he cautions that the program needs to be viewed as a stepping stone.
“Too many 8(a) businesses are shocked with their status expires,” Cantey said. “When you enter the program, your first thought must be where your company will be when you graduate. Start day one thinking about your exit strategy. I like to call it life after 8(a). If you are not prepared for this reality, it will be difficult to be self-sufficient by the end of the 9-year term.”
Cantey was interested in government contracting, so he sought advice from the Columbia Area SBDC. There he met procurement specialist, Scott Bellows, who showed him how to access the FPDS.gov website, where all arms of the military, as well as most federal and state agencies list jobs, some with 8(a) designation and some without.
After learning about the database, Caney pulled stats to determine where the best opportunities for sole source work lay.
“It’ something anybody can do,” he said of the process he found relatively simple.
Freeland currently works in Columbia at Fort Jackson, in Beaufort at Parris Island and in the City of Charleston. Their jobs range from mass renovations of municipal building like the Gaillard Auditorium to naval bases, hospitals and utilities.
Starting in 2010 with $1.5 M in revenue, the next two years saw revenue top $5 million. Today Freeland Construction has 26 employees, a 100 percent increase from the same time in 2012.
While facing the possibility of a less robust outlook due to sequestration, Cantey still feels positive about growth. The business plan is for Freeland Construction to become one of the top infrastructure contractors throughout the Eastern U.S.
“As long as we are able to utilize the SC SBDC, I know we’ll have the business advice we need to make those all important connections, find good job prospects and move forward in a sound way,” Cantey said. “The Small Business Development Centers network is one of the most underutilized but most necessary services the government offers.”