An unusual first contract win set up Newark consultancy for neighborhoods projects
After barely nudging its foot in the door of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through a community revitalization program five years ago, Newark-based consulting firm BCT Partners has been flooded with government contracts related to the initiative — including a recent three-year, $3.3 million award to provide technical assistance and supportive services for that original job's expansion program.
"A lot of very experienced companies were bidding on this contract, but our experience providing the same services to the predecessor to this Choice Neighborhoods program put us right in the winner's circle," said Randal D. Pinkett, chairman and CEO of BCT Partners. "Unless you have a name in the business, no one wants to give you work. But now, HUD is our largest customer."
According to Pinkett, BCT Partners won its first prime HUD contract "where preparation meets opportunity," as the firm originally lost the contract that had been set aside for small disadvantaged businesses to another bidder, but "a couple of days later, we got a call back from HUD saying the firm they selected was not eligible for an 8(a) contract, and since they placed us second out of three finalists, we won it by default."
Under that three-year, $2.4 million contract — which HUD extended by an additional $800,000 and another year, to conclude in March 2013 — Pinkett said BCT Partners provides technical assistance to community housing authorities that receive grants under the Hope VI neighborhood revitalization program.
For that national initiative, Pinkett said his company "fills the gaps in certain expertise necessary for the grants to be successful, like providing a lawyer to represent a housing authority in a contractual agreement with a developer."
But under the program, Pinkett said his firm was not proactively addressing the extensive issues in public safety, health care and education — and as a result, "we were limited in how much we could do to transform neighborhoods through better affordable housing, because the context that existed around the work we were doing somehow undermined it."
However, Pinkett said BCT Partners will have the opportunity to address those broader issues by providing the same technical support under the Choice Neighborhoods program, which gives grantees access to resources not only from HUD, but also the departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, and Education.
Though BCT Partners currently employs 50 people at its Newark office, Pinkett said the two neighborhood revitalization contracts are projected to create a total of 14 new jobs at his company — and "the contracts keep coming."
"We're hitting the ground running, because we've landed 25 or more government contracts just in the past few years," Pinkett said. "Getting this new HUD contract is a reminder of where we've been, when we were working so hard just to break in. All we needed was to get in the door … and now we have about 60 percent of our revenue coming from federal contracts."