Wyoming has not been winning the federal contract race. While states like Virginia have collared $24 billion in small business work alone in the past year, the Cowboy State has won just $200 million.
That’s something a retired colonel who served at the Pentagon hopes to help change, and he was among speakers at this week’s Aerospace and Defense Industry Conference in Casper.
His name is J.R. Twiford, and he’s a fifth-generation cowboy from Douglas, Wyoming. He owns Concordant, a company that specializes in helping the federal government identify the goods and services it needs and to articulate that need in ways likely to get a response from industry.
Twiford has moved his company’s headquarters from Washington, D.C., to Laramie, Wyoming, because he loves his home state and wants to help it grow.
“You can take the cowboy out of Wyoming, but you can’t take Wyoming out of a cowboy,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “One of the currencies I want to measure our success with are the jobs we can create that otherwise would have gone, frankly, to the D.C. metro area. You know, Virginia and Maryland.”
From Flying Nukes To General Dynamics
Like his dad before him, Twiford left Wyoming for a time to fly airplanes for the Air Force.
He spent some time carrying nuclear weapons all around the globe. He worked his way up in rank, ultimately retiring as a colonel serving at the Pentagon before going to work for General Dynamics. There, he ran the Air Force IT portfolio overseeing thousands of federal contractor employees performing high-dollar work.
“I saw the opportunity to buy a small business in Washington, D.C., serving (federal) customers and launched a plan to bring that work — and those jobs — to Wyoming,” he said.
Laramie has been headquarters for his company, Concordant, the past three years, which has been growing exponentially, Twiford told Cowboy State Daily.
“We just won work for a new (federal) customer and are in the process of hiring 50 new employees, with Wyoming candidates getting first dibs,” he said. “Finding experience in our workspace is a challenge, but we have partnered with the state government and the University of Wyoming to leverage our state’s business-friendly culture and help build and grow the workforce skills we may be missing.”
At the top of the federal contract list is Virginia, which has collared more than $24 billion in small business work alone from federal contracts in the last year, Twiford said. Wyoming, meanwhile, is getting less than 1% of that amount, with just over $200 million worth of federal contracts.
Twiford sees plenty of room for the Cowboy State to grow in this space. His starting point is to simply take the difference between Wyoming and Virginia and split it in half. He wants to help Wyoming collar $12 billion in federal contract work.
He believes that’s very doable.
For one, he was impressed by the interest Wyoming’s small businesses showed during the Aeronautics and Defense Industry Conference. Just over 100 small businesses and small business owners came to listen to the heavy-hitters themselves talk about the multibillion-dollar pie in aeronautics and defense work that is on the horizon.
The U.S. Department of Defense is the No. 1 source of federal contract work, and the presence of contractors like Northrup Grumman, as well as federal agencies like NASA and the U.S. Space Force, as well as FE Warren Air Force Base where Sentinels will soon replace Minutemen III missiles was unique, Twiford said.
“The reason NASA was there, and the reason Northrop Grumman was there, is because (the federal government) has mandated these small business goals, and they’ve got some regional and geographic requirements to them and some hard targets to meet,” Twiford said. “NASA is not coming to Casper because they couldn’t find businesses elsewhere.”
Their presence in Wyoming means they want and need more small businesses from the Cowboy State. This is a foot in the federal door that Twiford believes businesses in the state can leverage.
“I think I have now eight or nine businesses that asked me and my company to come consult with them, to help them figure out how to get some of this work,” Twiford said.
Now would be a good time for Wyomingites to focus less on negativity and more on the positive things that the Cowboy State has to offer when it comes to federal work, he added. Those include:
Good work ethic.
A business-friendly climate.
One of the most attractive tax structures around.
A university that’s training highly talented people, many with graduate degrees, who will need jobs in their chosen areas of expertise.
“This is an opportunity for Wyoming to say, ‘Hey, there’s no smarter place to do business than in the Cowboy State,’” Twiford said. “We’ve got a great university and educated people, and we’re hardworking folks. We are honest.”
Renee Jean can be reached at: Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com