ROCHESTER - Lori Smart was caught by surprise earlier this month when she learned that Sen. Jeanne Shaheen would be paying a visit to her business, Rochester-based SmartATI.
SmartATI is a small women-owned business specializing in construction management and information technology services for the federal government. Over the past several years, the company has earned awards such as the "Fastest Growing NH Women-Led Business" and the "Top Companies to Watch" from the Business NH Magazine.
Shaheen visited SmartATI on Friday, April 13, to learn more about their business and how the company has benefited from the HUBZone and other federal programs through the U.S. Small Business Administration. HUBZone is an SBA program created in 1998 for small companies that operate and employ people in Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZones).
"It was a real honor and a surprise for us to learn the senator would be visiting, and we were grateful for the opportunity to share our work and our experiences with HUBZone with her," Smart said. "It's very rare that a small company like ours would do so much work for so many agencies and still be a very small company compared to most government contractors, so it's something we take great pride in."
As a senior member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, Shaheen has advocated to expand economic investment in rural areas through the SBA's HUBZone program, helping small businesses like SmartATI compete in the federal contracting marketplace. Through the program, the federal government works to award three percent of all federal contracting dollars to HUBZone certified businesses.
Now in its 13th year, SmartATI has established itself as a reliable partner on dozens of federal government projects with agencies like the National Park Service, multiple branches of the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency and more.
Shaheen was welcomed by Smart and her husband, SmartATI Vice President David Smart, and was accompanied on her visit by New Hampshire SBA District Director Greta Johansson and Jenn Marsh of the City of Rochester's Economic Development Department.
During the visit, the Smarts shared the work they've done to secure federal contracts that traditionally prove challenging for small businesses to obtain and fulfill, as well as the difficulties businesses like SmartATI face in earning HUBZone certification.
"Expanding federal contracting opportunities for firms like SmartATI is a top priority for me," Shaheen said. "Last year, the National Defense Authorization Act included my legislation - the Invest in Rural Small Business Act - to expand economic investment in rural America by enabling more areas to qualify for the Small Business Administration's HUBZone program, which can help businesses like SmartATI access valuable contracting opportunities. As a former small business owner, I have enormous respect for the women and men who start and run small businesses, and I will continue to fight on their behalf."
Jordan Mayblum writes for the city of Rochester.