Keynote Speaker: Glen Simula
A local firm with Michigan Tech roots has secured a $25-million, five-year contract with the US Special Operations Command.
GS Engineering, founded by 1980 graduate Glen Simula was awarded the contract recently. Technically, it is an “indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity task order contract to supply systems test support services for US Special Operations Forces (SOF) ground mobility vehicles,” according to a US Special Operations Command news release.
Given the security surrounding the work, much of the details are not for public consumption, but GS Engineering says it will be doing design and analysis of light military structures, and the terms of the contract are a bit different.
“Indefinite delivery and quantity means they are purchasing man hours for whatever arises,” Simula says. This means GS Engineering must be able to react, retool if necessary, and produce results in what can be short notice. They’ll have approximately forty tasks to complete in the five-year period.
Government contracts like this normally run for two years, with two-year options after that. This contract, however, allows GS to look at expansion, both in facilities and people, and gives them a solid base in a couple of ways.
“It gets us into the game where, in the future, we can work with General Dynamics, GE, or other big companies, especially as they work with the Army and Air Force,” Simula says. “And it gives us stability for this time-frame; it’s kind of like tenure!”
GS Engineering’s work on the contract may involve local subcontractors and one Detroit-based, fairly famous subcontractor: Roush Enterprises, part of NASCAR’S Roush racing family.
“We’ve subcontracted with them before, and with their help, we really nailed the proposal,” Simula says.
GS Engineering grew out of Simula’s work with Michigan Tech’s Keweenaw Research Center (KRC). Through his involvement with KRC, he could envision that a small, for-profit entity could have more flexibility in bidding on contract proposals and doing work on state and federal projects.
GS is one of several companies that have spun off of KRC. Simula is grateful for that relationship with Tech and for another important, current connection: his employees. Nearly all his engineers are Tech grads.
“We wouldn’t be here without Tech,” he says. “I can’t stress that enough. We get asked sometimes why we aren’t in Minneapolis or Detroit, but we have this great university right here in this beautiful area. We can attract the kind of engineers who want to live in the Keweenaw. This is home.”
The MTEC SmartZone helped, too. The business-incubator organization, created by Michigan Tech and operating with the aid of the cities of Houghton and Hancock and Finlandia University, leased office space to GS as Simula began the business.
GS since has moved from the SmartZone’s Powerhouse building downtown to a new building of its own just outside Houghton, and that new building might not be big enough.
“We are talking about expanding next spring,” Simula says.
That’s the result of a lot of hard work, according to Chief Operating Officer Jim Bottomley. “This was a tremendous effort by a lot of people,” he says. “This gives us a good, stable base, and the effect will be felt all over the region. It’s going to be a big impact.”
That impact could include some work with Michigan Tech academic departments such as materials and science engineering, with whom GS Engineering has worked in the past.
Bottomley added that the broad-based project will move the company in myriad directions, and they really don’t know where until they get their tasks. “It’s flexible, open-ended, and you don’t know where you’ll end up at the end of the day,” he says.
But the engineers at GS Engineering know where they will be: on the shores of the Keweenaw Waterway, solving global problems while making their homes here.