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Nearly $100 million in contracts has been awarded to accommodate Fort Carson's soon-to-arrive Combat Aviation Brigade for the 4th Infantry Division. Only one, for $3.2 million, has gone to a local company, Hartland/Mass Joint Venture LLC.

You'd think that would have local construction professionals fuming. But apparently, not so much.

"If I want something like [building] a hangar in my backyard, I need to improve my game," says Jim Johnson, owner of GE Johnson of Colorado Springs. "To some degree, that's the nature of my industry. There are guys who work coast-to-coast, and they've done three barracks jobs and they have a proven cost-effective model, and it's pretty hard for me to chase one [barracks contract] and have all the right answers."

Though his firm hasn't worked at Fort Carson since the mid-1970s, Johnson says it gets government contracts: "Eighty percent of my work, I'm the guy from out of town."

Such is life in the big-time construction business. And for men and women on the ground, says Kenneth Knapp, executive director of Colorado Springs' Procurement Technical Assistance Center, there's reassurance that work will come with a project as big as Fort Carson's CAB: $750 million in military construction money for a 2,700-soldier, 113-helicopter unit.

"Every $50,000 [in contract cost] will create or retain one job," Knapp says. "Even a company that's headquartered in Michigan will hire local subcontractors to do the job. If you don't measure that ripple-down effect, you're being short-sighted."

In fact, Knapp ensures that ripple-down effect takes effect. In the above scenario, the PTAC might help put that Michigan company in touch with local subcontractors. Johnson says the PTAC, which his company supports via donation, has helped him do that.

He adds that it's also helped him pursue some of those government contracts. Since the Springs office opened in September 2009, Knapp says, it has helped Colorado contractors land nearly $1.4 billion worth — the equivalent of 21,000 jobs while the work was being done, Knapp says. And all that work has been subject to the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires laborers be paid more than minimum wage.

The state office matches its 3,000 clients with bid solicitations, assists them in working to develop joint ventures with other bidders, helps write and proof proposals, and aids in defining contract terms and conditions, such as helping contractors avoid "scope creep" — getting persuaded into doing ancillary work not specified in the contract, Knapp says.

"We're one of the best economic engines in Colorado," Knapp says. "Just because they don't win that Fort Carson contract doesn't mean they're not winning contracts elsewhere."

The office's $792,000 annual budget is funded by public and private donors including the El Pomar Foundation, banks, contractors and El Paso County, which has given $40,500. Donations are matched dollar-for-dollar by federal funds, and Knapp says the board of directors actively solicits donations, with a new campaign scheduled for October to February.

Mayor Steve Bach has called on the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC to create 6,000 jobs a year over the next three to five years, but the city has given no money to the PTAC.

A city spokesperson says that's because the PTAC hasn't asked.

zubeck@csindy.com

  • Locals make do with subcontracting gigs on Carson.

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