Helping Hand

By Susan Robertson | Courtesy Photos

Military themed challenge coin alongside assorted pieces of military gear.

Featured photo: Items by EOD Gear.

With the help of UT Center for Industrial Services employees, Tennessee small businesses have secured billions of dollars in government contracts since 1986.

Formerly known as Procurement Technical Advisory Center, the U.S. Department of Defense, which oversees the program, this year renamed it Apex Accelerators. Regardless of the name, its counselors worked with 854 Tennessee businesses that received 1,206 contracts totaling more than $300 million in 2022 alone.

Steve Cassidy
Steve Cassidy

One of the many companies coached by consultants is Franklin-based EOD Gear, a small, veteran-owned business specializing in explosive ordnance disposal and special-operations equipment and training. The company recently received a General Services Administration (GSA) schedule contract, which allows companies to sell their goods and services to the federal government.

“EOD Gear had been working toward obtaining a GSA schedule contract for some time, but the process proved to be challenging for a small business,” says business owner Steve Cassidy, who served as an explosive-ordnance disposal diver in the U.S. Navy for 10 years.
Cassidy turned to Apex Accelerators, which provides free assistance to small companies seeking to do business with the government.

Interior store displays with military gear sold by EOD Gear.
Merchandise sold by EOD Gear.

Cassidy says the counselors’ guidance proved invaluable for EOD Gear to obtain a GSA schedule contract and, ultimately, succeed in bids.

“Tennessee Apex’s role in helping EOD Gear achieve this milestone is a testament to the value of government-funded programs that support small businesses,” Cassidy says. “These programs offer much-needed assistance to small businesses that may lack the resources and expertise to navigate the complex world of government contracting. By leveraging these programs, small businesses can gain access to new markets, grow their businesses and create jobs in their communities.”

Apex Accelerators focuses on building a strong, sustainable and resilient U.S. supply chain by assisting a wide range of businesses that pursue and perform under contracts with the Department of Defense, other federal agencies, state and local governments and with government prime contractors.

Donald Thomas
Donald Thomas

Another company that received assistance from Apex counselors is Memphis Electric Company, owned by Donald Thomas, who retired after 18 years in the U.S. Navy and nine years in the U.S. Army.

“They were very helpful in identifying the paperwork I needed to download and submit,” Thomas says. “So far, we’ve done over $6 million in government contract work.”

Thomas started his company in 2017 and has worked with organizations including Shelby County Schools, Shelby County government and the Veterans Affairs hospital.

Both Thomas and Cassidy said working with the Apex counselors and now being eligible to secure government contracts has opened up new opportunities for their businesses.

“We can now leverage the (GSA) contract to streamline the procurement process and compete for federal contracts more effectively,” Cassidy says. “This has resulted in increased revenue and has helped the company grow its business.”