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October 18, 2010
NMSBA Contract Projects Meet Unique Small Business Needs

by Monica Abeita, Regional Development Corporation

The New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program (NMSBA) is well known for providing New Mexico small businesses with technical assistance from Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. But NMSBA also contracts with state universities and the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NM MEP) to provide unique and customized small business assistance. Companies in diverse industries, and at various stages of development, have participated in NMSBA Contract Projects with impressive results.

Sustainable Resources, Inc.
President Joe Ortiz was testing a solar-powered kinetic pump that converts brackish water to fresh water when he became interested in using algae growth for water purification and biofuel generation. Through NMSBA, Ortiz began to work with Steve Walsh, the co-director of the Anderson Schools of Management Management of Technology Program (UNM MOT) at the University of New Mexico and his MBA students. The team performed a technology assessment of the kinetic pump and provided an expeditionary marketing study to forecast the trajectory of the business and its ability to enter the marketplace. "Because of NMSBA assistance, SRI is now perfectly positioned to become a national leader in algae research," says Ortiz.

AgVentures, LLC’s primary product is the Dairy Ozone Delivery System (DODS). This system, which is currently used for decontamination and sterilization in dairies, has another potential application for uranium tailings remediation. Through NMSBA assistance, New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center analyzed the results of using the DODS on uranium tailings, made suggestions for system modifications, and evaluated the technical readiness level (TRL) of the system. The results indicated that the DODS can successfully remediate uranium tailings if some minimal and affordable changes are made to the system.

Firefly Lighting, Inc. is a fifteen-year old company that custom designs and crafts UL-listed lighting products. In 2008, the company struggled to manage large contracts which resulted in sales of nearly $1 million. NM MEP Innovation Director Andrea Holling and Center Director Ron Burke helped the company find ways to produce more with existing resources by eliminating waste, organizing work space, developing an ordering system for materials, and streamlining administration practices. Owners Kathleen Le Scouarnec and John Zubchenok have become 20% to 30% more efficient, with a 10% increase in sales and a 30% improvement in on-time delivery. Their streamlined manufacturing process has also enabled Firefly to meet increased demand from their e-commerce web site.

Intor CEO Stanley Bryn has been manufacturing optical, soft-coated thin-film filters for 50 years. Through NMSBA, Bryn sought the engineering and business expertise of New Mexico Tech to grow his company and remain competitive. Frank Reinow, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Management, and his students analyzed Intor’s current technology, market position and growth potential. The results lead Bryn to incorporate hard-coated thin films, which are becoming popular with end users, into Intor’s manufacturing process. "Through the NMSBA contract with New Mexico Tech, we worked jointly to bring the best of hard and soft coating technologies together to produce a superior product not available in the industry today,” says Bryn.

Portage, Northwind and Everline--three northern New Mexico LANL subcontractors-- received soil sampling training from Northern New Mexico College through NMSBA. The 34 hour, state-of-the-art training included proper tool selection, optimal sampling design and collection, quality-control techniques, and the ability to detect sampling errors. The training will help with LANL's Closure Project at Technical Area 21. Through the year 2015, thousands of samples will be taken to test for the presence of radioactivity or hazardous materials. The training provided the three small businesses with the skills to perform soil sampling for LANL and for other government entities.

To find out more about NMSBA Contract Projects, contact Vangie Trujillo (505.665.4284) at LANL or Sharon Evans (505.845.9671) at SNL.