When Sadat Nichols and Al Shepherd started ARS Mechanical, an HVAC and plumbing service provider, they knew it would be imperative to tap into outside resources. In 2005, Nichols became familiar with the Georgia Statewide Minority Business Enterprise Center (GMBEC), funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency and operated by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute.
GMBEC provides business and technical assistance that helps emerging and existing minority business enterprises (MBEs) experience significant growth and sustainability, and have long-term economic impact through the creation of jobs and revenue. Part of a national network of centers established to increase the number of MBEs and strengthen existing ones, GMBEC provides services in business assessment, access to capital and finance management, access to markets, strategic business consulting and business process improvement.
“Especially at the beginning, we needed their assistance,” said Nichols, president of ARS. “They’ve been really instrumental in a lot of the growth that we’ve established.”
Donna Ennis, GMBEC project director, has assisted ARS Mechanical with a number of projects, including helping the company secure bonding, lines of credit and other financing; providing proposal writing assistance; and helping the company implement ISO 9001:2008, a quality management system. Ennis also nominated ARS Mechanical for the 2007 Regional Construction Firm of the Year Award, given by the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency; the company beat out eight other firms in the Southeast.
Most recently, Ennis assisted Nichols and Shepherd with writing a proposal that landed ARS Mechanical a contract with Fort Gordon to implement an innovative geothermal heat pump project, leading to potential long-term energy savings. The $1.7 million project will convert 11 buildings, totaling 32,500 square feet, from traditional HVAC systems to deep-well geothermal heat pump systems, which use the thermal properties of the Earth to provide heating and cooling. According to estimates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, energy bills for those structures could decrease by as much as 40 percent.
ARS Mechanical, an African-American owned heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and mechanical services firm, is headquartered in Conyers, Ga., with 28 employees. The company specializes in commercial and industrial heating, ventilation and air conditioning, mechanical and plumbing, and since its establishment in 2002, has doubled its business annually.
“Successful MBEs must be able to form strategic alliances as well as secure adequate resources for growth, and that is where I believe GMBEC can be of assistance,” Ennis said. “The management team at ARS Mechanical has fully utilized our services and is planning for future growth in new technologies.”
GMBEC celebrated its sixth year at Georgia Tech in 2009, and over that time it helped clients secure more than $195 million in procurement contracts, financing, and sales; assisted minority companies with creating more than 1,450 jobs; and provided one-on-one technical assistance to some 400 firms and advice, guidance, and resources to thousands of others. The program received the 2006 Institution Award from the Greater Atlanta Economic Alliance and was recognized by its federal sponsor as an outstanding-performance center for 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.
GMBEC works with existing high-impact firms in manufacturing, construction, warehousing, transportation, technology and professional services. Assistance ranges from identification of funding sources to process and infrastructure improvement to securing new business. To qualify for GMBEC assistance, companies must have 51 percent minority ownership and minimum annual revenues of $500,000.
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Writer: Nancy Fullbright