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Press Release: Intertech featured in "Prime contractors can help small businesses access Uncle Sam"

Prime contractors can help small businesses access Uncle Sam From the time he was a boy doing chores on his father's dairy farm near Watertown, Tom Salonek knew he wanted to run his own company someday, but his entrepreneurial plans were accelerated by a series of illnesses and injuries that befell his three brothers. "I had one brother who had cancer, and another brother who fell off the roof of his house, and another brother who had a brain-swelling," said Salonek, CEO of Intertech, an Eagan company that teaches computer languages to programmers. "That was all three of them in the span of about three months, and it was clear to me we don't have any guarantees." So at the age of 24, he left his secure job as a programmer at West Group and started a company that has grown to 30 employees and more than $4 million in annual revenue since Salonek started it in a spare bedroom of his house 12 years ago. Despite turbulent times in technology, Intertech has never had an economic layoff, Salonek said, and jobs probably will be added soon because of a $2 million contract Intertech landed recently to train technology trainers for Lockheed Martin Corp. That contract is the result of a strategy that led the Eagan company to the federal treasury, because, as bank robber Willy Sutton once said, "that's where the money is." While balanced-budget advocates point out the downside of deficit spending, small-business advocates are urging entrepreneurs to go after a piece of the federal pie. At a government procurement fair Thursday in Brooklyn Center, for example, several hundred small businesses will be trying to get contracts with the exhibitors -- government agencies and the private companies known as "prime contractors" that have contracts with federal agencies. Lockheed Martin, which will be exhibiting at the fair, gets 80 percent of its $26.6 billion in sales from the Department of Defense and other government agencies. Salonek tried for more than three years to get some of that action. A few weeks ago, he succeeded. "It feels good," the 37-year-old business owner said with a smile. His company was selected over big companies such as Sun Microsystems to train engineers at Lockheed, the leading provider of information-technology services to the federal government. Salonek's company was born when he and a few friends took over two bedrooms and the living room of his Eagan house to do computer consulting. His wife tolerated a houseful of geeks, but she's never forgotten her first wedding anniversary, when Salonek told her he couldn't go out because he had to finish a project. "She went out for Chinese food and bought herself a gift," Salonek said. "That wasn't one of the better decisions I've made." But other decisions, such as branching out from consulting to classes, were better. And the decision to pursue a contract to train Lockheed employees might be one of the best. Salonek had sold his training services to Minnesota state agencies, such as the Department of Education, and figured Lockheed, which sells the government everything from weapons to mail-sorting technology, was a door to the huge federal market. Lockheed wanted a company that would do training of its trainers for certain types of languages, such as Java and .Net, and sent some of its people to monitor classes at several companies, including Intertech. After comparing notes, the Lockheed employees decided that the little company off Yankee Doodle Road in Eagan did the best job. "We have worked with this company in the past and we've been pleased with their services," said Megan Mariman, a Lockheed Martin spokeswoman. "Lockheed Martin is committed to encouraging and supporting the small-business community. Last year, Lockheed Martin awarded over $1 billion in contracts to small and disadvantaged businesses." Salonek isn't sure what all of the training will be used for because Intertech doesn't have the security clearance needed to know that. But he knows he's playing with the big boys and has come a long way from those cold wet mornings on his father's farm. "When I have a bad day here, I think, 'I'm dry, and I have no manure on me,' " Salonek said. "Life is good." The expert's opinion: George Johnson, who counsels Minnesota small businesses on how to get federal contracts, said Intertech has done it right by selling its services to a company such as Lockheed, rather than trying to get a federal agency to hire Intertech directly. "If you're a small business, your quickest and most efficient way to the government market is through subcontracting to primes," said Johnson, director of the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) at the Metropolitan Economic Development Association. Small businesses seeking help making contact with prime contractors should call PTAC at 612-259-6569.

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