EAST MACHIAS – Superlative Technologies, the company that has provided call center services for human resources benefits for U.S. Navy personnel since 2001, will handle the federal contract for another five years.
Negotiations to land the contract were completed only on Saturday, Chet Childs, SuprTek’s director of the Northeast division, said on Monday.
“The good news is that the work stays in Maine,” Childs said. “The better news is that the work remains in East Machias.”
Maine’s congressional delegation – Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, and Rep. Michael Michaud – jointly announced on Monday that the contract has been extended through 2011.
SuprTek, with headquarters in McLean, Va., will actually be a subcontractor with Occam Solutions Inc. of Annandale, Va. Named for the 14th century English philosopher William of Occam, Occam Solutions focuses on Internet technology services. Occam Solutions has worked with SuprTek previously.
“The Navy changed the rules on the procurement, so SuprTek could no longer be the prime contractor,” Childs said. “We chose to work with Occam, and SuprTek is now a subcontractor with them.”
Occam Solutions was awarded a firm fixed-price contract for the work of $2,014,143.70 for fiscal year 2007.
The total dollar amount of the contract will be more than $11 million if all four option periods are exercised, the delegation said in a joint press release.
Within a few months, Occam also will have a presence in East Machias. While no new jobs are likely to be created, half of the current staff will switch over to work under the Occam name. The other half will remain under the SuprTek name.
All the jobs that move over to Occam will have the same pay and benefits that SuprTek currently offers, Childs said.
Michaud said he was “pleased that the Navy has once again recognized the excellent work being done in East Machias.
“I was proud to work with my colleagues to advocate on behalf of the call center’s funding,” Michaud said. “I will continue to support the good work being done in any way that I can.”
The contract was renewed on the day that it expired, Sept. 30.
“This is a formal recognition that the Navy’s process of outsourcing of these skilled jobs [as a benefits call center] does work,” Childs said.
There had been the chance that the East Machias jobs could have been lost, if the Navy had chosen to work with a rival bidder or even possibly sent the work overseas.
“There is always nervousness when you are in competition with other bidders,” Childs said of the process that has lasted months. “The government is looking for the best value for the taxpayer.
“You don’t know who the other bidders are, and you hope you did it right. … Yeah, we were nervous.”
Sen. Snowe called the news “a victory for the state of Maine and the Navy’s civilian personnel who rely on the exceptional service of the East Machias call center every day.”
Sen. Collins also was pleased with the negotiations.
“I am proud that this deal will allow the dedicated employees of the East Machias call center to keep serving the Navy’s civilian personnel,” Collins said.
“This center is one of the area’s largest employers. It is a true example of how a technology-based business can thrive in rural Maine.”
The number of employees at the local office largely has stayed steady since SuprTek brought the contract to Washington County.
There were 32 employees in November 2003 and 34 employees about a year ago. Now the company has 33 employees.
SuprTek got its Washington County legs back in July 2001, when the local office won a three-year federal contract over five other companies to handle about 500 calls a month, starting in January 2002.
Originally the local office handled calls from about 40,000 Navy civilian employees in the Northeast, one of the Navy’s seven regions. Customer service representatives provided answers on the Navy’s health benefits, insurance program and retirement investments. The Navy offers more than 30 health plans from which civilian employees can choose.
The Navy later expanded SuprTek’s work to handle calls from all seven regions, covering as many as 186,000 Navy civilian employees worldwide.