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‘Low profile’ getting higher

SUNDAY, MAY 4, 2008

A nondescript building on a side street in Smelterville, Idaho, is the unlikely home of a construction company quietly landing tens of millions of dollars in government contracts.

Native American Services Corporation – started in 1998 by two men raised in the Silver Valley – was just awarded a $75 million contract to manage construction projects at the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama.

“We keep a pretty low profile,” said CEO Dennis “Rusty” Sheppard, a 58-year-old Wallace native.

Sheppard teamed with his son’s best friend – Kellogg High School graduate Matthew James – to form NASCO.

The pair started small, moving dirt on U.S. Forest Service jobs and doing Superfund remediation in the Silver Valley.

They then began working on Bureau of Indian Affairs projects in New Mexico, doing everything from building schools and libraries to developing water systems, creating wetlands and doing environmental cleanup.

Qualifying as a minority-owned business – James, 36, is Native American – NASCO has an edge when competing for government contracts.

Current contracts include a $40 million project at Fort Gordon, Ga.; a $50 million project with the US Army Corps of Engineers in Savannah, Ga.; a $25 million project at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico; and a $20 million contract at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. And NASCO is one of seven contractors involved in a $500 million project in Glynco, Ga., for the Department of Homeland Security.

The company, which now has 12 offices nationwide, has doubled in size each of the past five years, Sheppard said.

“Our goal this year is to do it again, and we have the contracts in hand to do that,” he said. Keeping up with that growth is the company’s single biggest challenge, he said.

Sheppard said he sees the company’s ability to manage growth as NASCO’s only limiting factor – if and when it becomes a problem.

Gross annual sales of $70 million amount to a little over $1 million per each of the company’s 70 employees, Sheppard said. In the past year, the company has bid more than a half-billion dollars’ worth of work, with an award rate of 51 percent.

The Department of Homeland Security recently gave NASCO a Small Business Achievement Award for its work on the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga.

At home, the company is developing condominiums and building a new company headquarters in Kellogg.

Despite NASCO’s success, Sheppard said the company still considers itself small.

“We are a family-oriented company,” he said.

It offers a full benefits package, with medical and retirement, along with college scholarships for employees and their children.

Last year, the largest single scholarship was $21,000, and Sheppard said some larger awards are planned this year.

More than $1 million in bonuses were handed out last year, he said, and the company flies all employees and their families in twice a year for the company picnic and Christmas party.

The employees have been key to the company’s success, Sheppard said.

“If you get the good people, you can grow as fast as you want,” he said.


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