The Pros and Cons of Taking On Military Concrete Polishing Projects

BusiAs a polishing consultant I get to wear several different hats, but by far the largest amount of my time is spent managing polished concrete programs for retailers. Polished concrete is an aesthetically beautiful and valuable flooring solution, but it is fairly specialized. The industry has not been around for a very long time and standardization is difficult because of the wide range of equipment, chemicals and project conditions that affect the process. The contractors’ experience and competency also come into play. I set standards that address these issues using the specifications process.

One of my customers is a group called AAFES (Army & Air Force Exchange Service), a very large retailer that you will find only on United States Army and Air Force bases. The Exchange presents polished concrete projects ranging from stores of about 8,000 square feet all the way up to about 150,000 square feet.

This is good work for any contractor who wants to go after it. However, there are some specific things to consider when doing work on military installations. These issues should be considered prior to your bid on any project involving military property.

As you read, keep in mind that government work is always awarded to the lowest qualified bidder in every situation, no matter how large or small the project is.

The first issue is wage requirements. Since all projects done on military installations are funded in some part by tax dollars, all wages are held to the standard set by the Davis-Bacon Act. In a lot of cases this standard will require a higher wage for employees working on base. There is also a lot of office paperwork that goes into compliance with this standard. Don’t assume that you can get around it or try to do the job outside of compliance. My experience is that the general contractor will allow you to complete your work, but they will not pay you until you turn the compliance documentation in to them. The extra wages and hours are an important consideration in your bidding process.

The second thing to consider is access. All U.S. military bases have tight controls in place for civilian access to the base. On most bases contractors have a special gate to use, and every time one of your vehicles wants to enter the base, the vehicles will be searched.

All employees wanting to work on the base are subjected to a background check. It is very important that all IDs are reviewed prior to driving to the base to ensure that they are valid (not expired) and legal. Without a valid ID the employee will not be allowed to enter the base. If the military police find a warrant out on any employee attempting to enter the base the military police will detain that person and notify the county or city where the warrant was issued. This means that if the base you are working on is in California and the warrant was issued in Texas your employee will stay in jail until the warrant has been cleared or the Texas police come to pick up the offender.

You need to include wait time for searches and background checks in your bidding costs, because this is time that your employees will be paid for without any contribution to the work on the project.

Also, it is important to understand that when you are on a military base, civilian laws do not apply to you. The laws are different and the consequences for not following the base regulations are much more severe than they are for breaking civilian laws.

When you are working on a military-base project, it is especially important to review your specifications. Every job, every time, all of your work will be compared to the specifications. If you do not meet specifications you will not get paid (obviously with the exception of circumstances that are beyond your control). I recommend that the foreman or on-site personnel have a copy of the specifications with them on the project.

Military-base projects are usually reviewed by committee. You generally have between two and four people who are reviewing your work — they need to agree that you have done a good job and that you meet or exceed your specification requirements. This means that as long as you meet your specs you are in great shape, but if you do not, the odds are that one of the people in this group will notice and call you on the discrepancy.

Knowing all that, you might not want to accept work on military bases, but there are some very good reasons why you should. First, the work is steady. When the military decides to build something or remodel something, that work is not done immediately. Usually all funding is in place 12 to 18 months before construction starts. This means that the decision to build or not build happens way before the bid date. If a project gets to the bidding phase, you can be sure that it will be completed. This is different from civilian retailers, who have the ability to change their minds or the schedule days before a project starts.

Military bases are not under the jurisdiction of any city or state, so you can work on bases anywhere without worrying about state or city licensing. In some states this is a huge bonus for this work. Also, all of your materials for military projects are nontaxable. This saves quite a bit on cost when you purchase materials or tooling.

Because of all of the regulations and hurdles that you have to clear to work on military projects, the pricing is usually a bit higher than the industry standard. If the project is managed properly, this higher price can lead to a higher profit margin. Overall, if you are thorough with your record-keeping and specification review, military work can be very lucrative.

Last but not least, the military will always pay the bills (which is sometimes hard to guarantee in the public sector) as the projects are fully funded well in advance of construction.

Got more questions about your project?

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