Arizona small businesses make big splash in national awards program

Jennifer Rahn’s career success story is the kind everyone loves. She started at the bottom. Now, she’s at the top.

Almost 20 years ago, Rahn started as an office assistant for a long established Phoenix precision manufacturing firm, Admiral Engineering & Manufacturing Co., that produces complex machined parts for the aerospace, defense, space, medical and technology sectors.

Today, she is president and owner. Rahn’s innovations and drive have accelerated the success of the company that produces products for defense vehicles like the Apache helicopter and the Navy Triton drone that can fly in any weather at altitudes as high as 50,000 feet.

Her accomplishments earned her the top award for federal subcontractors, the 2019 National Subcontractor of the Year, from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) that represents more than 3 million businesses that employ half the American workforce.

Triple win for Arizona

Two other Arizona companies also received top honors this month at the SBA’s 56th annual award ceremony during National Small Business Week: the Meadery Brewery in Prescott and The Surety Place in Scottsdale.

The awards recognize excelling business performance by small businesses that contract with the federal government. In fiscal 2017, the federal government awarded over $105.7 billion of all federal contracts to small businesses, the biggest year ever, said Jordan Ripley, an Arizona spokesperson for the SBA. That translates into more than 584,000 jobs.

Three of this year’s winners are from Arizona:

Subcontractor of the Year, Jennifer Rahn, Admiral Engineering & Manufacturing, Phoenix

Rahn started as an office assistant and moved up the ladder, working closely with previous owner David Schlosser to learn every aspect of the business.

“I had never worked in a machine shop before,” said Rahn. “I was fascinated with it.  I wanted to learn everything I could about it. Most people don’t think twice about where machined parts come from.”

When Schlosser retired, he asked her to purchase the company and carry on its legacy as a small business dedicated to quality. That was in 2017.

One of her biggest challenges as a small business owner is to keep up with rapidly changing technology and pay for it.

“It is tough to stay competitive unless you invest in new equipment and research new methods of doing what we have done for so many years,” she said.

The company’s horizontal and 5-axis capabilities are controlled milling procedures that allow for close-tolerance turning of complex machined parts, as well as tooling, prototyping and developmental machining for Aerospace, Defense, Space, Medical, and Technology industries.

Today, Admiral Engineering has 25 employees and averages $3 million in revenues annually. The company manufactured the Deployable Surface Asset (DSA) Program and the DSA antenna manufacturing antenna.

Small Business Persons of the Year, Jennifer and Jeff Herbert of Superstition Meadery, Prescott Arizona

The Herberts received the award for their success in quickly taking their honey-based brew – a fermented beverage dating back 4,000 years – to the international market. From two employees at inception to over 20 today, the enterprise grew from sparse revenues to reach $2.6 million in 2018.

With financial assistance and counseling help from the SBA, the Herberts increased their revenue by more than 160 percent between 2015 and 2017, expanded their staff from nine to 20 employees, and extended their reach into international markets, Acting SBA Administrator Chris Pilkerton said.  

Surety Agency of the Year, The Surety Place, Scottsdale

This bond-only agency has been working with the SBA since 2010 helping small businesses with federal contracts acquire surety bonds in all 50 states. The company was awarded based on its participation, activity, claims, and recovery, and its commitment to helping small businesses obtain contracts with both government and private sector entities.

For 65 years, the SBA has been helping small businesses start, grow, expand and recover from disaster. Through a network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations, the agency connects entrepreneurs to funding, counseling and training, opportunities for government contracts, and strategies for expanding to international markets.

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Victoria Harker

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