High-Tech Company Continues To Grow

By Caitlin Cook
The Charleston Gazette, W.Va.


Allegheny Science and Technology is getting noticed.

The company made Washington Technology’s 2014 Fast 50 list and the Inc. 500 list for its performance last year.

While Allegheny president and chief operating office Arria Foster-Hines gives credit to her talented team, she said the company would not be where it is today without a U.S. Small Business Administration program — known as the 8(a) Business Development Program — that helps businesses owned by women and minorities.

The company specializes in management and systems solutions, primarily working government agencies as clients. Foster-Hines said the company started with in 2009 with two employees, and now has about 75 employees.

Before Allegheny, Foster-Hines and company vice president Bob Wentz were dabbling in government contracts with their own separate businesses.

Foster-Hines came from a management control background and Wentz came from a software systems engineering background.

The two Weston natives started talking about a potential business fusing their specialties into one company to go after larger-and-larger federal contracts.

The SBA program shrinks the competition pond for Allegheny. Federal agencies must do a certain amount of business with the 8(a) businesses annually.

“The 8(a) distinction lets us enter areas faster than we could without a discriminator,” Foster-Hines said. “It’s been a large contributor to our early success as we’ve grown.”

Just after earning the distinction in July 2009, the company landed its first federal contract with NASA for $1.6 million. Since then, Allegheny has worked on federal contracts with the Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Army, Department of Justice and multiple intelligence agencies. Its private sector clients include KeyLogic Systems, Northrop Grumman, Booz Allen Hamilton and Accenture.

“When you are starting out in any business — it doesn’t matter if you’re in government or whatever — you are really going on the merits of your past performance,” Foster-Hines said. “You have to have your own strong credibility to get in the door.”
Allegheny built on Foster-Hines’ and Wentz’ previous government contacts.

“It seems like the hardest thing about running a company like ours is being that new business,” Wentz said. “It’s really about bringing in quality people that allow us to grow.”

Melissa Loder, a business opportunity specialist with the SBA, works with West Virginia’s ten 8a businesses.

“They needed a edge to do business with the federal government the other businesses don’t have,” Loder said.

The 8a companies receive business coaching and training. The SBA also preforms “match-making” for 8a companies to see what government contracts match up with local business capabilities.

As a company grow in the nine-year 8a program it is expected to earn more non-8a contracts.

“That way they can stand on their own two feet when they’re done with the program,” Loder said. “As they get more and more contracts we require them to diversify their customer base.”

Currently, Allegheny’s top three clients are the Department of Energy, the U.S. Army and a U.S. intelligence agency.

The company has secured $116 million worth of contracts. In late September, Allegheny won a three-year, $85 million blanket purchase agreement for mission oriented technical support for the Department of Energy.

The company is also trying to maximize its growth during its 8a time period.

“We’ve tried to — and have been pretty successful — hire people that bring skill sets that we want to expand upon in the company and what we want to develop,” Foster-Hines said.

Foster-Hines said the company is taking a somewhat unique growth approach. Many companies that work in government contracting choose to grow their business through contracts with just one or two agencies they already have worked with.

“We have three sweet spots — program management, software engineering and research and development,” she said. “We’ve been able to take those capabilities across several government agencies to expand.”

The company has offices in Maryland and Idaho but plans to remain headquartered in the Mountain State.

Both Wentz and Foster-Hines agree the local SBA office is great to work with. Foster-Hines added being located in the state’s north central high tech corridor with organizations like NASA and the FBI is a definite plus.

“It’s unique attention you would not get if you are in the District of Columbia metro area,” Foster-Hines said.

Foster-Hines said 2014 was a good year for Allegheny making the Inc. 500 and Washington Technology Fast 50.

“Those are significant indicators of how we’ve managed to grow and go after bigger and bigger contract numbers,” she said. “We hope to hit it again next year.”

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Popular

To Top