December 21, 2014

Defense Contractors

War Business

As the military turned to private contractors post 9/11, a host of young Florida firms -- many in top-secret work and high-tech fields -- has been growing and hiring fast. But the privatization pendulum swings both ways.

Mike Vogel | 12/1/2010

Prime Military Contract Awards in Florida
Between 2002 and 2009, the amount of military contract awards increased by 85%.

Amounts are in billions of dollars.
Prime Military Contract Awards in Florida
Source: Department of Defense

"Obviously that's creating some angst and creating some uncertainty," says Hugh Campbell, president of contractor Advanced C4 Solutions. Advanced C4, a communications and IT contractor in Tampa, has increased revenue 30% to 40% annually and employs 230, half in Florida at MacDill and at Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field in the Panhandle.

Even absent Gates' comments, contractors say they know defense spending will draw down as troops exit Iraq and Afghanistan. The landscape, however, isn't all bleak. Garnier was interviewed in the midst of taking celebratory calls after the firm won a new contract from the Department of Homeland Security for a border project. "It's a big win," Garnier says. A 10-year veteran of the Air Force, he began working for Cambridge from his garage in Sarasota. The company now has 45 employees in Tampa.

Most contractors predict a continuing military need for their services. "What general and what colonel are not going to want to know what the enemy is going to do?" says Roger A. Swinford, who co-founded his information technology and consulting company, Calhoun International, in 2005.

But they also plan to diversify. Celestar plans to move more into the IT field and, over the next five years, the commercial market, calling it a "natural progression for us as a company. I have long-term goals," Celestan says, "and I want the company to be around for many years."

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