First companies picked for Sandia’s new Mentor-Protégé Program

By Michael J. Baker

Photography By Lonnie Anderson

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Small-business protégés based in New Mexico, California and Missouri

Paul Sedillo
SMALL-BUSINESS MENTORING — Sandia small-business program manager Paul Sedillo presenting to small-business representatives and owners during a forum last year at the University of New Mexico Lobo Rainforest.

Sandia has selected three companies as its first protégés in a new partnership program designed to help small businesses develop and build solid foundations when competing for federal and industry opportunities.

“Sandia was looking for small businesses that wanted to grow and learn, and we believe we’ve found three great partners,” said Sandia small-business program manager Paul Sedillo. “These companies will receive access to experts from across Sandia’s 14,000-plus workforce.”

The protégés, from three different states, include a woman-owned and two veteran-owned small businesses. The mentor-protégé agreements will be for two years, with the option of an additional year, said Royina Lopez, Sandia’s Mentor-Protégé Program lead.

The first protégés

Sandia experts will lead sessions with the businesses beginning this month and focusing on specific development needs as requested by the protégés to help build their businesses, Royina said. “We are thrilled to collaborate with these small business protégés, providing opportunities and resources to take them to the next level.”

The protégés:

  • Albuquerque-based Pluma LLC is a service-disabled, veteran-owned small disadvantaged business that offers several services, including general contracting, electrical contracting, design-build, construction project management, commercial tenant improvements, residential remodeling, flooring and steel buildings.
  • Strategic Industry Inc., based in Kingsburg, California, is a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business established as a general contractor that self-performs electrical and low voltage trades.
  • CeLeen LLC is a woman-owned small disadvantaged business based in Perryville, Missouri, with an operating location in Belleville, Illinois, that provides professional and information technology services.

“We’re very excited Pluma is going to get mentored by one of the world’s premier institutions,” said Pluma owner Christofer Pacheco, “It’s a very organized approach, and it will help us in several ways — from project management, safety, quality, business development, finance and more.”

Program benefits protégé, mentor

Sandia launched its Mentor-Protégé Program last fall for applications from companies that qualified as small businesses, including historically Black colleges and universities and other minority higher-learning institutions; had been in business for at least two years; had not been a previous participant in a DOE mentor-protégé program; were a U.S.-owned business; had a good safety record; and met product and service needs of Sandia. While Sandia has had protégés in the past, this newest program was designed to further the exceptional small-business commitment of the current prime contract.

“The diversity and number of qualified applicants was impressive,” Paul said. “Having such a robust mentor-protégé program fits nicely with Sandia’s small-business outreach efforts. By working with these small businesses, we’re expanding not only what they can offer to Sandia but to their respective industries as a whole.”

Assistance for businesses can include developmental and technical help aimed at allowing small businesses to better compete for DOE contracts. Protégés are eligible to receive noncompetitive contracts from Sandia, DOE and other national labs and federal agencies with thresholds of $6.5 million for construction contracts and $4 million for other contracts.

Part of a larger effort

Sandia’s Mentor-Protégé Program becomes yet another opportunity for small businesses looking to work with the Labs. Sandia lists contracting opportunities on its website and anticipates resuming public forums with suppliers and civic leaders to discuss subcontracting opportunities in fiscal year 2021. Sandia also offers a 5% pricing preference for qualified New Mexico small businesses.

In fiscal year 2019, the latest period for which data is available, Sandia added more than 535 new small businesses to its supplier base. Small businesses represented 65% of all Sandia suppliers and received $784.2 million in Sandia subcontract spending. New Mexico small businesses received nearly $364 million. Sandia increased spending in several small-business categories, including woman-owned small businesses, Historically Underutilized Business Zone, or HUBZone, companies, small disadvantaged businesses, veteran-owned small businesses and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses.

“Sandia plans to continue this program for future years, allowing for additional opportunities,” Paul said. “Sandia has a lot to offer in helping small businesses grow, particularly in these difficult times.”