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Defense giant Harris Corp. will sponsor Colorado Springs-based Barnett Engineering and Signaling Laboratories in a Department of Defense program designed to help small military contractors grow large enough to bid on and win prime contracts.

Barnett Engineering has been working as a subcontractor to Harris since 2008 on the $400 million Space Control Depot Support Contract and co-owner Jeff Barnett asked Harris to sponsor his company in the program to reach his dream to expand from 45 employees to about 300 during the three-year program. Barnett said Friday his company plans to bid on the Air Force Mobile Command and Control Contract later this year with Harris as a subcontractor that would be Barnett Engineering's first in the prime, or lead, contractor role if it wins the work.

"Becoming a prime contractor is the next logical step for us," Barnett said. "Harris is a great company to work with and we have an excellent relationship with them. This program allows larger businesses like them to mentor small businesses like us because the government is always looking for credible small business to be prime contractors."

Barnett started the company as he was retiring from the Air Force in 2006 and had just two employees at the end of the first year. Barnett Engineering, owned by Jeff Barnett and his wife, Pamela Barnett, has grown to 45 employees working in the Springs, Florida, Ohio and Texas providing specialized intelligence, technical, engineering and acquisition support to the Army, Navy, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Missile Defense Agency, National Security Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, Defense Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Intelligence Community.

As part of its mentor role, Harris Space and Intelligence Systems in Colorado Springs will help Barnett Engineering add to its engineering, cybersecurity and proposal development capabilities and help it win key quality management and business process improvement certifications, said Tessa Baerlocher, who heads the Space Superiority Program for Harris.

"We have worked on multiple efforts together over the last eight years and (Barnett) has grown from about five people when we first got a contract together in 2008 to more than 40 now," Baerlocher said. Jeff Barnett "approached us to sponsor them as their mentor to help them grow and have the opportunity to bid on prime contracts."

The Department of Defense Mentor-Protégé Program is highly competitive and includes about 85 small businesses working with major defense contractors like Boeing, Harris, Lockheed-Martin and Northrop Grumman. Colorado Springs-based Trimble Sustainment Engineering Inc. also is part of the program with mentor Honeywell Technology Solutions Inc., now owned by KBR Inc. Three previous participants - TAC Services, Boecore Inc. and Colorado Engineering Inc. - won the Nunn-Perry Award in 2001, 2008 and 2011, respectively, that is given to the program's most successful participants.

Boecore Inc. tripled its size to 150 employees during the 5½ years it spent in the program with mentor Northrop Grumman, allowing the Colorado Springs-based information technology and cybersecurity company to bid on and win its first prime contract in 2013.

"We hope to follow in their footsteps," Baerlocher said.

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Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234

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