November 2005

 

Edmonds Firm Wins Navy Bid

06 Nov 2005, Posted by amy in News

EDMONDS – Sound & Sea Technology Inc. has secured a five-year military contract worth up to $29.5 million to provide ocean engineering services for U.S. naval facilities around the world.

The Edmonds-based company will lead a team that includes 11 subcontractors in a range of projects for the Navy, including assisting with undersea cable installation, offshore structure and buoy work, and improving harbor and port security.

The contract’s first year gives Sound & Sea and its contractors more than $5.7 million. The Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center, based in Port Heuneme, Calif., has the option of renewing the contract for the for the following four years, through 2010.

“It’s the largest contract we have ever received,” said Judith Meggitt, president and co-owner of Sound & Sea.

Meggitt and her husband launched Sound & Sea in 1999 from their home, where the company still is headquartered. Judith Meggitt once worked for Northrup Grumman Corp. Dallas Meggitt spent more than 20 years designing and installing undersea equipment as a civilian employee for the Navy.

Since then, Sound & Sea has opened a branch office in Ventura, Calif., and done millions of dollars in contract work for the military, telecommunications firms and others.

The Meggitts have helped install underwater power cables at Guatanamo Bay, Cuba, and installed nuclear test blast monitoring devices in the middle of the south Atlantic Ocean.

Closer to home, Sound & Sea worked on an undersea telecommunications cable that runs from Mukilteo to California and Japan.
Judith Meggitt said Sound & Sea still is a virtual company, with many of its 40 employees working in different locations. Only a few work directly at the Edmonds headquarters.

The new contract, officially announced by the Defense Department a week ago, is significant, said U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, a Democrat whose district includes Edmonds.

“This contract is a big win because it will help increase our nation’s security, not to mention create jobs locally,” he said in a written statement.

Reporter Eric Fetters: 425-339-3453 or fetters@heraldnet.com.

Home-Based Firm a World Class Player

06 Nov 2005, Posted by amy in News

Sound & Sea Technology’s latest feat – winning a five-year $29.5 million contract from the Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center in Port Hueneme, California – is just the latest in a string of successes for the Edmonds home-based company.

“It’s hard to imagine that a small technology business could have a worldwide presence,” says Sound & Sea principal Judith Meggitt. “But from our home in Edmonds, we coordinate a roster of engineers on commercial and government national security and marine engineering projects around the globe.”

The Naval contract calls for production of the Advanced Deployable System, a next-generation undersea surveillance system.

Judith and Dallas Meggitt formed their business in 1999 when they were both 56. Judith Meggitt had been laid off in the early ’90s from Northrop Corporation in Southern California; Dallas was given a choice of moving or quitting when his employer, Raytheon, relocated to Rhode Island.

Instead the couple decided to stay in Washington state and start their own company.
Dallas’ 30 years of experience in undersea systems installation combined with Judith’s 25 years of administrative and management experience made them a formidable team.

“Together we have put project management, cost accounting, reporting, and administration systems in place to serve their government and commercial customers,” says Judith Meggitt.

Sound & Sea Technology’s first project was a $9,000 contract to design and set up a system to monitor communications cables, running through the Olympic Marine Sanctuary off the Washington coast, to ensure the cables were not damaging the environment.

Since then Sound & Sea has contributed to more than 100 projects involving design and installation of military and commercial undersea cable systems, acoustic trials of advanced marine equipment, remote sensor surveys of the seafloor, development of cable landing sites, and related work.

The firm has expanded operations from Edmonds to Ventura, California.

In 2002 the Meggitts contacted Michael Franz, a counselor with the Seattle Small Business Development Center, for business assistance. The SBDC is partly funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide small businesses with no-cost confidential management and technical business assistance.

Counselor Franz helped the Meggitts with many aspects of their business including marketing; federal and state small business certifications; the merits and disadvantages of forming a limited liability corporation or Subchapter S Corporation; cash flow; reviewing and preparing a pricing/overhead allocation spreadsheet.

“Every time we had a question we would call Michael,” says Dallas Meggitt. “If he didn’t have the answer right away, he would research it and get back to us.”

Franz also referred them to John Tamble of the Snohomish Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). The PTAC is a national program established by Congress and funded by the Department of Defense to help small businesses understand and participate in the federal bidding process. The program has operated in conjunction with the Snohomish County Economic Development Council.

In July 2002 Sound & Sea Technology was awarded a $13.5 million five-year contract to provide ocean engineering support to the U.S. Navy.

To meet the broad scope of the contract, Sound & Sea assembled a team of other firms with specialist skills needed by the wide range of tasks on the contract. The company beat out several competitors, including a Fortune 500 company.

Having finished that contract two years ahead of schedule, the Meggitts successfully competed for a follow-on contract.

Among projects supported by this contract are the Advanced Deployable System (ADS), a next-generation undersea surveillance system; an undersea acoustic system for monitoring compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: installation of an experimental acoustic system off the East Coast of the U.S; and experimental cable system installations at various locations.

In addition to this work for the Navy, there is a new component to the contract: Anti-Terrorism & Force Protection for Navy facilities worldwide.

Dallas Meggitt says this involves evaluation and detection of any kind of threat to onshore Navy bases and docked ships, such as what happened to the USS Cole in 2000.

“Competing with very large corporations on a business level and for government procurement contracts is not for the timid,” says Dallas Meggitt. “The biggest challenge is keeping customers satisfied by exceeding their expectations.”

He says it’s important to study customer requirements and give them what they need – “To take time to understand your customers.”

The company’s name has a double meaning. The “Sound” in Sound & Sea Technology refers to acoustics. It also refers to the Puget Sound.

The Meggitts also carefully selected their company logo. They believe a logo is an important part of a business because it represents the company’s image.

Judith Meggitt touts the advantages of being a business based on a virtual work environment. “Being able to work 24-7 and not having to commute contributes significantly to our productivity,” she says.

The nature of the firm’s work requires contributions from a geographically diverse workforce, and their projects take their employees around the globe – literally. SST has completed projects in locations from Ascension Island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean to Wake Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, halfway around the globe from each other.

A report from the SBA Office of Advocacy in Washington, D.C., estimates that one-half of all small businesses are home-based businesses, although only 10 percent of home-based firms have employees, as the Meggitts do. They employ five people including themselves in their home administrative office, but have a total of 38 fulltime and part-time employees.

“Our employees – the engineers we hire to work for us – work virtually,” says Dallas Meggitt. “The broadband high-speed internet technology helps keep the lines of communication open and current. When we need to bring a team together to do a project, we still use the technology to communicate and keep our customers closely involved in the projects.”

Even so, he says he frequently travels to their California office: “There is still nothing better than face-to-face communication.”

Navy Awards SST $13.5M Contract

06 Nov 2005, Posted by amy in News

EDMONDS — When residents here send e-mail to relatives in Asia or make business calls to Europe, the bits of information and voice pulses often shoot through fiber-optic cables crisscrossing the oceans. To keep the globe connected, however, someone has to lay the cables thousands of feet down on the ocean floors. It’s obviously more complicated than burying cables along the street across a few blocks of town. That’s where Edmonds-based Sound & Sea Technology Inc. comes in.

Owners Dallas and Judith Meggitt have built a business by providing undersea engineering assistance for the installation of telecommunications cables and a variety of military-related projects.

“One of the advantages we have is we know who to go to for the expertise,” Dallas Meggitt said, “while the customer may not.” That knowledge is valuable. This summer, the small firm landed a five-year, $13.5-million contract, beating out several competitors, including a Fortune 500 company.

While the Meggitts work from an office in their Edmonds home, their work takes them far afield. A few months ago, for example, Dallas spent time on Ascension Island, a remote 34-square-mile volcanic patch in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean.

There, he and other contractors performed seafloor surveys and installed cables for sensors that will detect secret nuclear weapons tests. The monitoring station is being set up as part of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The Meggitts, both 59, also have worked on projects much closer to home. They assisted in the installation of Global Crossing’s undersea cables that run from Mukilteo to California and Japan.

Dallas spent more than 20 years as a civilian employee for the U.S. Navy, designing and installing underwater sensors and other equipment. He then worked in the private sector until a buyout of his employer gave him a choice: quit his job or move to Rhode Island.

So he and Judith, who once worked in administration for Northrop Grumman Corp., started their own company in 1999. With Dallas’ engineering experience and Judith’s administrative skills, the husband and wife found they also make a good business team.

“We understand the requirements very well and we have substantial commercial experience,” Dallas said. “And we operate virtually, so we can work anywhere in the world.”

Since then, the Meggitts have contributed to two dozen different projects, gaining clients through word of mouth. Since Sound & Sea’s start, the couple have established an office in Ventura, Calif., and have 10 other employees around the nation who work with them via computers.

Sound & Sea’s start coincided with a boom in the undersea cable sector. Less than 15 years ago, satellites carried the vast majority of international voice and data traffic. Then AT&T Corp. finished laying the first undersea fiber-optic cable between New Jersey and Britain.

That one cable could carry 40,000 calls at once, much more than the undersea copper cables and comparable to the volume handled by numerous satellites.

During the late 1990s and through this year, numerous companies, including now-infamous Global Crossing, have raced to lay thousands of miles of undersea fiber-optic cables. Sound & Sea benefited from that boom, which has ended with more bandwidth capacity than needed and financial problems in the telecommunications industry as a whole.

“As it became clear the telecommunications bubble was going to burst, we wanted to diversity,” Dallas said.

Indeed, Sound & Sea’s work has flip-flopped dramatically with the boom and bust of the telecom industry. Three years ago, Dallas estimates, 90 percent of the company’s work was on commercial projects. That percentage is down to 20 percent. “The people doing the commercial work only are out there floundering, while we were able to transition to military work,” Judith said.

In July, the company got word it had landed the $13.5-million contract from the Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center in California.

To meet the broad scope of the contract, Sound & Sea assembled a team of other ocean engineering firms. The Meggitts credited the Snohomish County Economic Development Council’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center for helping them get through the complex bidding process.

“There’s an enormous amount of paperwork you have to file for these government contracts,” said Deborah Knutson, president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Council. “Since Dallas had worked for the Navy, they knew him, but he still had to go through all that.”

For up to five years under the contract, Sound & Sea and its team will work on cutting-edge undersea surveillance systems and experimental cable installations for the Navy. While the big assignment is welcomed by the Meggitts, it undoubtedly will mean more time on the road, or the seas, for Dallas, he said.

“The Navy goes worldwide,” he said, “and so do we.”

Reporter Eric Fetters: 425-339-3453 or fetters@heraldnet.com.