Thomas DePace, COO and senior engineering manager for Advance Sound Company, testified before Congress Tuesday, asking for help in shortening the time between when small businesses do federal government work such as AV installation and when the companies get paid.
And CI played a small role in DePace’s appearance, as his introduction to the House Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Infrastructure included a mention of his 2015 inclusion on the annual 40 Influencers Under 40 list that celebrates AV’s best young talent.
In his five-minute testimony during the session “Helping Small Businesses Compete: Challenges and Opportunities in the Federal Procurement Marketplace,” DePace advocated for the prompt payment of change orders by federal agencies, lowering the federal retainage rate and requiring bonding on public-private partnerships. He called these “three key areas ripe for reform.”
“Each of these three areas holds a unique challenge to the federal marketplace,” DePace told the committee, led by Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME), himself a 40 Under 40 honoree in his own field. DePace was testifying before the Congress subcommittee on behalf of the National Electrical Contractors Association.
“I think we were really well-prepared for it,” DePace told CI in an interview on Wednesday. “This was something that was very important to me. There are a lot of issues facing AV integrators. All of these jobs involve risk. There’s a difference between buying these products yourself off the Internet and having them integrated by a professional.
“We wanted to report what contractors are feeling throughout the country,” DePace told CI.
Subcommittee members Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN) and Rep. Mark Veasey (D-TX) are sponsoring the NECA-supported Small Business Payment for Performance Act (H.R. 2344). DePace hopes to see action on that piece of legislation in the fall, if not sooner.
The subcommittee must offer a response based on the testimony within five days of the hearing.
DePace called the proposal “a common-sense solution requiring the federal government to recognize that their delayed payments have real-world consequences for America’s small businesses.”
During his testimony to the Congress subcommittee, DePace called the proposal “a common-sense solution requiring the federal government to recognize that their delayed payments have real-world consequences for America’s small businesses.”
“As a contractor who has worked numerous federal construction projects, I am extremely encouraged by this subcommittee’s efforts to better understand the challenges of the federal marketplace,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the federal marketplace is notorious for limiting our cash flow, which for contractors is the key not just to success, but to our survival…If there is no cashflow, companies like mine are unable to hire,” DePace told the subcommittee in his five-minute written statement.
NECA officials have heard “countless stories of companies unable to bid on projects due to delayed payments and limited liquidity,” DePace told the committee members. “This means less competition on federal projects and ultimately decreased benefits for the federal government and the American taxpayer.
“The federal construction industry is riddled with challenges and opportunities; risk is inherent to this arena. Payment terms for contracts have only gotten worse over time and many NECA contractors report horror stories of not receiving pay for 150 days or longer. It is facts like this that make contractors wary when entering into business with the federal government,” he testified.
Preparing for Congress
Subcommittee members did “a good job of making [me] feel comfortable,” DePace told CI. He went about nine seconds over his allotted five minutes, but didn’t feel rushed to complete his statement.
DePace brought three suits and “about 20” ties with him to Washington for the hearing, choosing a blue suit, white shirt and red and blue tie that he says was “very patriotic.”
DePace brought three suits and “about 20” ties with him to Washington for the hearing, choosing a blue suit, white shirt and red and blue tie that he says was “very patriotic.” He also wore a NECA pin on his left lapel during his testimony.
“I wanted to make sure I represented my company, NECA and my industry well,” DePace told CI. After the hearing, NECA staff treated DePace to “a nice dinner,” capping what he called “a great experience overall.”
Watch the complete hearing, noting Thomas DePace’s introduction including a mention of his appearance on the 2015 40 CI Influencers Under 40 (20:30), his full five-minute testimony (33:40) and his answers to subcommittee members’ questions (59:24, 1:03 and 1:10).