Latest News & Events
- Brad Harper, Montgomery Advertiser
Air Force helps local companies take off
Executive Keith Ellis, left, and Eugene Tinker pose for a portrait at Certified Technical Experts in Montgomery, Ala., on Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. (Photo: Jake Crandall/ Advertiser)
Ron Betts was one of the thousands in Montgomery this week to connect and learn during an Air Force technology summit. But he’s not leaving when it’s over.
Betts works for Huntsville engineering services company Intrepid. It’s involved in everything from hypersonic engine tests to election security, and now Betts works full time in Montgomery. That’s because of a new Air Force-funded innovation hub here and the promise of more opportunities for small businesses to work with the military.
“We really want to grow,” Betts said. “What I told our president, Bill Best, is that I want to change the headquarters from Huntsville to Montgomery. That’s my personal goal.”
The new MGMWERX hub is a nonprofit dedicated to finding ideas, technology and solutions that help the Air Force. That also means connecting with private companies that can help make those ideas a reality.
For years, other local small businesses have found success solving problems for the Air Force.
When people checked in for this year’s Air Force Information Technology & Cyberpower Conference, they did it on software developed by Certified Technical Experts, a minority-owned Montgomery small business. “That whole thing is sitting on an Amazon cloud, so it’s a cloud-based system that we developed for that contract,” CEO Eugene Tinker said.
Tinker, an Air Force veteran, started the company in 2010. It now has nearly 100 employees, and the company’s software is used in military retirement homes, to help doctors treat patients, and even by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tinker works in a nondescript office on Bell Road, but the company also has locations in Germany and Japan.
“We’ve done quite well,” he said. “Everybody’s moving toward cybersecurity and cloud.”
Tinker said the connections he formed while serving helped, but so did the help from people involved in military outreach, like Denise Baylor.
Baylor has spent a decade working to build those kinds of connections as the small business director at Business and Enterprise Systems at Gunter. In that time, she said the share of BES work that goes to small businesses has jumped by more than 40 percent.
Her only problem: A lot of them are getting too big to be considered a small business.
“These companies have really come in and shown that they have the capability and the capacity to do the work,” she said.
Baylor said they often work in conjunction with small business development efforts at Alabama State University and the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce to keep that growth going. “We’re not the only one in town,” she said.
MGMWERX brings another element to that formula by allowing startups to compete on a level playing field with giants like Boeing or Microsoft.
Betts, a former teacher at Air Command and Staff College, said the hundreds of students on base all write papers, do research and form ideas that often don’t make it beyond the base. “Here, with MGMWERX, there’s an opportunity for them to actually be executed,” Betts said. “The contractors can go, ‘I think I can help out. I have a solution that will make this a reality.’ Instead of one large company coming in, you could have hundreds of small companies coming in.
“If we can just get 1 percent to execute, the River Region will be on fire. The word will be out, if you have a research idea come to Montgomery.”
Latest News & Events