Professional speaker Tony Alessandra said, “Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Service wins the game.”
This quote mirrors the philosophy of the employees in the District’s Environmental Project Management Section, which is managed by Supervisory Program Manager Mike Goodrich. He and his seven, full-time project managers and two interns represent a small, talented group with “can-do” attitudes who miraculously more than doubled their workload last year.
In truth, taking the environmental investigations and remediation work from about $20 million in fiscal year 2010 to $54 million in fiscal year 2011 was no miracle. It was customer responsiveness, plain and simple.
The section was officially created in February 2010, when a growing environmental-focused workload demanded individualized attention. Goodrich was picked to lead the section a few months later, in July, and he helped hire and gather a team with extensive private sector experience.
Goodrich said “no” is not in his team’s vocabulary, and, while working on large projects more traditionally aligned with environmental remediation, like soil and ground water contamination cleanups and munitions response, his team asked customers if they could do more. Interestingly, this willingness to work led to an approximately 33 percent increase in business in the form of small repair and construction projects.
“We accepted these numerous small projects, and we relied heavily on people in contracting to help us find small firms to handle the sole-source contracts, which put money back into the local community,” Goodrich said. “Our contracting personnel are exceptional at what they do.”
In addition to Contracting, Goodrich and his section work closely with their colleagues in Legal, Cost Engineering, Environmental Engineering and other sections.
“It’s definitely a team effort,” he said.
The continued increase in business reflects on Goodrich’s team’s ability to provide outstanding customer service. The military and other federal customers, like the Environmental Protection Agency, do not have to hire the Corps for environmental cleanup projects. Often, they can manage the projects “in-house” and contract the work themselves. However, when Goodrich and his team exceed expectations, as they have been doing, the work keeps streaming in.
“We’re seeing an uptick in energy efficiency work, like solar energy applications and motion sensors, on military installations,” Goodrich said. “In his recent State of the Union Address, President Obama made several references to the need to lessen our reliance on traditional energy sources and to investigate alternative and cleaner sources of power.”
Ideally, Air Force bases and Army posts would like to become self-sustaining, and, while military installations may never be able to get completely off the energy grid, upgrades of this type move them closer to their environmental goals.
Traditional Cleanup Work
Although glad to help customers by picking up those small projects, the team’s time is largely spent on sizeable projects like the bulk fuels spill remediation effort at Kirtland Air Force Base, which is one of the Air Force’s highest priority cleanups. Many of these large projects are spread across the country and require significant travel.
“We travel a lot, because our projects are located across the District and the South Pacific Division,” Goodrich said. “Furthermore, if customers outside our Division contact us and request our support, we’ll step forward, once we’ve coordinated with the local district. Sometimes, we even help by awarding contracts for other districts. We’ve also been able to work closely with our colleagues across multiple divisions to successfully execute projects throughout the southwest.”
The section’s Military Munitions Response Program (MMRP) work is a good example of how this team is regionally-matrixed with colleagues in other districts and divisions.
“All of our MMRP work rolls up under the South Pacific Division’s Range Support Center, which is a virtual design center that includes staff from Southwestern Division,” Goodrich said. “Munitions response is a critical part of the team’s work, due to the acute human health risks from old ordnance.”
Unlike military construction and projects in civil works that are planned ahead, often years in advance, the environmental project management work can pop up unexpectedly. At any time, a customer can find contamination that needs to be investigated and addressed. The unpredictable nature of the workload can be a challenge for the section, but another challenge is the budget.
“The budget issues the country is dealing with are also affecting the Department of Defense and the Corps,” Goodrich said. “Installations and agencies have to carefully consider which projects to execute.”
Knowing this, Goodrich and his team work all the harder to prove their efficiency, dedication and customer focus.
“We are environmentalists, and we find this work rewarding,” he said. “We don’t wear uniforms, but this is the way we feel we serve the nation, by making the environment cleaner and safer for future generations.”
Goodrich’s Section’s work is required under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, commonly known as Superfund. These Acts mandate short-term removals, where actions may be taken to address releases or threatened releases requiring prompt response, and long-term remedial response actions, which permanently and significantly reduce the dangers associated with releases or threats of releases of hazardous substances that are serious, but not immediately life threatening. Cleanups at formerly used defense sites and on Native American lands are examples of work grouped into specific programs under his Section.
Now located on the first floor of the District Office, Goodrich and his team were relocated from the old Annex and are working to become more integrated with District employees. Excluding the two interns, he and five of his staff have worked for the Corps for less than three years. The lack of familiarity with the Corps could be viewed as a disadvantage for this team, but their desire to succeed and numerous public-sector connections have helped them surmount obstacles.
“The section is comprised of two long-term Corps project managers, two relatively new graduates, and five others with many years of private-sector environmental experience,” Goodrich said. “It is a strong group with diverse technical and project management backgrounds; I believe this team can handle any problem thrown their way.”
Goodrich said he expects fiscal year 2012 projects to be of a slightly lesser magnitude than 2011, in the $45 to $50 million range. Nevertheless, he said his high-functioning team stands ready to accept projects whenever and wherever they develop.