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Big contract in a little town

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Archives - December 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009


Digital airport surveillance radar built and installed by NATECH at the Waco Regional Airport in Texas.


COOS BAY A technology company in Coos Bay has been awarded an $8 million contract from the Federal Aviation Administration to upgrade FAA infrastructure in multiple states.

Defying the trend of chronic job loss in struggling coastal towns — unemployment in Coos County is around 12.8% — Native American Technology Corporation (NATECH) says the project will eventually require an additional seven to 10 full-time employees with two of its traveling maintenance staff based in Oregon. NATECH will install battery backups and repair FAA power systems in 15 Western states.

NATECH president John Williford says his company’s gross revenue grew 20% over the last fiscal year because of contracts with  Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Computer Sciences Corp. Williford says he hired two additional personnel in the accounting department and is currently hiring a proposal writer — all in the Coos Bay office.

While the 75-employee company has completed larger projects as a subcontractor for Lockheed, its work for the FAA will be the largest prime contract the company has undertaken in its 10-year history. He estimates that NATECH will begin the project by the end of the year.

Williford, who used to work for the FAA, says NATECH’s far-ranging work for the agency could pick up even more. After marketing NATECH to the FAA as willing to work anywhere in the nation, the agency informed him in late October that his company made the short list for a Master Ordering Agreement. The arrangement assigns tasks to contractors as they arise, but has no concrete dollar amount. “It has potential to be large,” says Williford. He says he expects to see another 20% growth in revenue for 2010 because of the FAA contracts.

Williford’s wife, Wanda, is the owner and CEO of the company and a member of the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians. Their two daughters serve as heads of financial services and HR.

The affable executive is modest about his family business’ success. “When you’re small, the numbers look huge,” he says.



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There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


The clean fuels opportunity

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111014-dirtyfuel-thumbBY KIM MOORE | OB RESEARCH EDITOR

A market for low-carbon transportation fuels has a chance to flourish in Oregon if regulators adopt the second phase of the state’s Clean Fuels Program.

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