With 79 percent of the Department of Energy’s waste treatment and immobilization plant’s support facilities having transitioned from the construction phase to startup, Bechtel is encouraging local small businesses to contribute their products and services to the project.
“More opportunities are becoming available for small businesses as we get up and running, transitioning from traditional construction services and plant equipment,” said Cheryl Bernier, Bechtel National’s small business program manager who works as a liaison between the company and its small business subcontractors. Bechtel is managing the WTP project.
Bernier reported that Bechtel has completed 90 percent of its construction materials procurement for the portion of the plant dedicated to treating low-activity tank waste.
With 31 percent of startup and commissioning procurements for this part of the project awarded, there’s more opportunities for local businesses to get involved.
As the construction phase winds down, workers go through a series of walkdowns, checks and rechecks before startup personnel take over. Their task is to ensure everything is in proper, safe working order as designed before being handed off to the commissioning phase, said George Rangel, Bechtel spokesperson.
To support this effort, Bernier said Bechtel is seeking suppliers of spare parts for machinery and equipment, tools and materials for testing and maintaining plant components, consumables such as worker safety equipment, laboratory and office supplies, and other routine business services.
“The whole gamut—we’re buying a lot right now,” she said.
The low-activity waste treatment vitrification plant, or vit plant, is on pace for construction to be completed by June 2018, according to Bechtel officials.
“Part of our success is through developing and maintaining excellent relationships with contractors and subcontractors,” Bernier said.
To date, Bechtel has spent more than $4 billion in goods and services with companies across the United States to support the WTP project. Of that, $1.94 billion has been spent in Washington and Oregon, with $1.36 billion concentrated in the Tri-Cities.
On the procurement side, in 2017, total spending for the WTP tallied $211 million. Of that, $126 million was spent in Washington and Oregon, with $94 million going to Tri-City companies.
“It’s a great opportunity for the local economy,” said David Reeploeg, vice president of federal programs at the Tri-City Development Council, or TRIDEC. “A lot of companies have gotten their start doing almost 100 percent Hanford work, but as they grow, diversify into other work.”
Reeploeg said this creates sustainable local jobs not solely dependent on Hanford site projects.
He explained that though the Department of Energy’s projects continue to be an important aspect of the local economy, “we have diversified significantly over the last few decades.”
And he emphasized the importance of diversification as a key to business longevity.
Jacob Perotti, who works in government business development at Horizon Distribution Inc., a small, veteran-owned, Yakima-based company that’s been in business for more than 137 years, said Horizon has benefited from its work with Bechtel on the WTP.
“Everything in the government works on past performance and Bechtel has definitely been one of our highest levels of past performance,” Perotti said. “We’ve been doing work onsite (at Hanford) for decades. We’ve been involved with several prime contractors out here and Bechtel was just a natural fit. We have a great relationship.”
Perotti said being able to tell potential customers about the company’s relationship with Bechtel—one of the world’s largest contractors—lends a lot of credibility to HDI and its business capabilities.
According to Rangel, HDI has supported the WTP project with more than 2,700 purchase orders totaling more than $8.1 million since 2002
HDI is a growing regional and national wholesale distributor, serving the Northwest, California, Alaska, Nevada, Montana, Utah, Hawaii and North Dakota, as well as British Columbia and Alberta.
“We have a team that can really hunt anything down that’s requested,” Perotti said.
HDI has provided hand, power and cutting tools, safety, plumbing and electrical components, paint, and fasteners to the WTP project, Rangel said.
As the WTP transitions into the startup phase, Perotti said HDI will continue to secure tools and products to support the project. “It’s a pretty exciting transition for us, because the items (requested) might be a little bit different and that expands Horizon’s scope,” he said.
Perotti said the WTP’s startup phase presents opportunities for the company to venture into new supplier and vendor relationships and expand its footprint with manufacturers.
“The biggest thing for us is the excitement of moving forward,” Perotti said.
Perotti said other small businesses interested in working with Bechtel or other Hanford contractors should go through a small business liaison at those companies, like Cheryl Bernier.
“We are always interested in meeting with qualified and capable companies that can deliver product that will help us to succeed at the waste treatment plant,” Bernier said.
She encourages prospective companies to “get information about the project. Be knowledgeable about the type of work that we are doing and ascertain how their business can help meet our needs. They can get a lot of that information at the project website, hanfordvitplant.com; that’s a good place to begin.”
Bernier also recommended that those interested may register through Bechtel’s supplier portal on the website to become qualified vendors. Once registered, companies can send a capabilities statement to her office.
“The second step,” Perotti said, “is do your best to perform. Whatever you present as your capabilities, make sure you can adhere to what you are putting on paper because the expectation is exactly that.”
“The secret to continuing to be successful is to deliver on time and to deliver excellent quality and performance,” Bernier said.
Perotti said asking for performance evaluations along the way is also a healthy practice. “There’s always room for improvement,” he said.
“And patience,” said Alex Hodge, industrial sales manager at HDI. “Good relationships are not built overnight. It takes a lot longer than a normal stream of business,” he said, referring to working with government contractors.
As the transition from construction to startup continues, Bernier said, “We will continue to look to partner with local small businesses in the region wherever possible.”
Information: hanfordvitplant.com; call Cheryl Bernier at 509-371-2396.
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