GAUTIER — Omni Engineering is a principal support contractor to the U.S. Navy Supervisor of Shipbuilding in Pascagoula providing engineering, technical and logistics services. By its nature, government contracting work is cyclical.
“If Ingalls isn’t building ships, there isn’t a lot for us to do,” says George D. Boozer, vice presidentdirector of contracts. “If the government had enough military and civil service people, they could provide the engineering services themselves. But it is easier for them not to have to ramp up and ramp down.”
President Dick Junkins said the company’s principal purpose in life is to provide the engineering services to the government, predominantly the U.S. Navy
“It is our beginning, what we have done in the past, and what we hope to do in the future,” Junkins said. “But the company has had an interesting evolution. A good bit of the work we were doing for the Navy was IT (information technology) oriented such as maintaining databases. It seemed a natural growth process for us to look to IT for a principal source of income as the government contracts ebb and flow.”
During those times when shipbuilding is in an ebb such as at present, the company needed something to augment revenues. In order to provide the IT services the Navy needed, a number of employees had been hired or trained in special certifications such as Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, Microsoft Certified Professional, Microsoft Certified Professional + Internet, and CISCO Certified Network Associate. The company decided to put that training to good use by providing IT services to Coast businesses.
“Now we have about 35 small commercial customers, mostly doctors and lawyers,” Junkins said. “We can do everything from complex work to computer repair. We go out and try to gain customers who need network services. We design networks, tell them the types of equipment and interface would best serve their needs, procure and install the equipment, and afterwards can maintain the equipment. We also teach them how to use the equipment.”
Junkins said the hallmark of their company is providing IT service at a reasonable cost. And with technology changing so rapidly, one thing company representatives do is simply keep businesses up to date with technology changes that can make them more efficient and profitable.
When the company was first founded, its headquarters were in Maryland. Most Navy contractors are based in the Washington, D.C. area. Omni is the only major Navy contractor based on the Coast.
When Junkins was made president of Omni, the company’s owner asked Junkins to move to Maryland. Junkins prefers living on the Coast. The decision was made to move the company’s headquarters to the Coast with an office staff in the Washington D.C. area to work on procuring contracts.
Junkins sees advantages to staying on the Coast. Costs for things like rent and salaries are lower, and there are advantages to being a home-based company serving the Navy and other government entities.
“We like it down here,” Junkins said. “The only disadvantage is not being in the mainstream up there. So what we end up doing is picking up the work that comes to the Coast rather than going after major contracts in the D.C. area.”
Another advantage is the pool of potential employees. A lot of the employees are ex-military or ex-civil servants who decided the Coast is a nice place to retire. Omni is a second job for them.
“Most of the people that we have here are here in this area because they want to be, not because they were dragged down here on contract,” Junkins said. “On the IT side of the world, we have predominantly a group of young professionals, graduates of local schools, who are also very much tied to this area and want to stay here. They enjoy working in this environment. We have a very low turnover as far as people being dissatisfied living and working here. The turnover up north in Washington is absolutely horrendous.”
Joel Little, who heads business development for the company, said he thinks there is a lot of work in the IT area on the Coast that has yet to be tapped.
“We have made significant contacts in areas we need to grow our business,” Little said. “We participated in the Jackson County trade show a couple weeks ago, and we are members of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce. We are meeting and greeting people every day, and the phone calls are starting to come in. We expect the IT part of the business will really be able to sustain us for quite some time.”
L. Carl Lawrence Jr., IT manager, says there is increasing interest by businesses in security and high-speed Internet connections.
“The speed available to businesses has dramatically increased in the past few years, and the price continues to plummet,” Lawrence said.
“The opportunities for Mississippi businesses are better than ever if you want to connect to Internet. We can assist with proper security for the Internet, and still provide remote access to employees and customers.”
Cable modems are becoming increasingly popular. Besides dramatically increasing the speed, the telephone line isn’t tied up being connected to the Internet.
Wireless data communication is also getting hot.
“A lot of businesses are finding that rather than put new cable in an old structure, they can more effectively employ a wireless network,” Lawrence said. “If they move to a new facility, they don’t lose their investment. Wireless has excellent speed and is very reliable.”
Junkins said some people are surprised the company provides this kind of high tech support in Mississippi.
“Customers who are doing things the old way need to take a more worldly view of what’s out there,” he said. “Small businesses can inexpensively get on the Internet and exchange information and ideas. The technology is going to get better, and is going to get better quickly. For example, soon doctors will have a tablet PC that they can take with them that will have all their patients’ records, the Physician’s Desk Reference, diagnostic tools and the ability to consult with other doctors online.
“It is astounding what improvements are being made in technology. There are applications in every type of office. We’re really excited about this. In addition to the mainstream type of work we do, there is a whole new world out there in IT.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at firstname.lastname@example.org or (228) 872-3457.