Frank Varvoutis - Small Business Success Stories
HCC Graduate Wins Park Contract through Help of School's Small Business Center and NC Military Business Center
Frank Varvoutis, 2004 Haywood Community College Forest Management graduate and owner of Hemlock Healers, Inc., recently received a contract for work for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Varvoutis found out about the opportunity through the Small Business Center (SBC) of Haywood Community College. The SBC is periodically alerted of government job opportunities for local businesses through the North Carolina Military Business Center (NCMBC).
"It's an asset for the Small Business Center to know about these jobs," said Sharron Donnahoe, Director of the SBC at HCC. "We can be a connector and do the best we can to let these businesses know about these opportunities."
The North Carolina Military Business Center (NCMBC) is a collaborative effort between North Carolina business and industry and the North Carolina Community College System. The mission of the Military Business Center is to leverage the presence of the military in North Carolina to promote economic development and quality of life for all.
The contract awarded to Varvoutis is for treatment of the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. He works in 11 different areas in the park, most of which is in Cataloochee. Varvoutis begins his day early, hiking into the back country with a backpack full of supplies. Most trees to be treated are off the trail.
The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid settles at the base of the needles of the tree and sucks the sap and nutrients out. The tree is treated by inserting an insecticide at the roots. The insecticide is the same that is used to treats fleas and ticks.
Varvoutis explains that the Adelgid came from Asia and was first found in the United States in the 1920s on the West Coast. "This insect moves 20 miles per year. It travels by hatching eggs that are carried by the wind, people, and other mammals. Treatment is an ongoing process. It takes between 2 to 4 years to treat."
Varvoutis is no stranger to the park service. While getting his business off the ground, he was employed there but soon found juggling both jobs was too demanding. He is a certified arborist who performs all around tree care from tree removal to plant control and pest control. He estimates that 85% of his work is residential but last year he treated four summer camps. Varvoutis' work takes him all over Western North Carolina from Tipton Creek to Marion, Saluda, Spruce Pine, and everywhere in between.
After Donnahoe told Varvoutis of the job opening with the park service, he began working with Teresa Bouchonnet, a NCMBC Specialist. He says she walked him through the process every step of the way and was always available for help with problems.
"This was the third time we put a package together," Bouchonnet said. "But Frank kept trying. It's all about persistence. Many times people give up. My job is to help small businesses bid and work through the entire process."
According to Bouchonnet, $22 million of construction jobs last year in this area was with the government. But jobs are available in a variety of areas such as post offices, VA clinics, landscaping, fresh fruit suppliers.
"We live in a hub zone, a disadvantaged area. Small businesses need to get registered with matchforce. It's free. There are a lot of jobs out there and North Carolina companies don't apply for them."
MatchForce.org is a web-based tool provided by the State of North Carolina and the NCMBC to individuals and government purchasers worldwide and to companies in North Carolina. The tool matches government purchasers to North Carolina suppliers; individuals to job opportunities with North Carolina companies; and North Carolina companies to government business opportunities, potential business partners, and potential employee profiles.
"Winning this contract is great exposure and income for a small business owner," Varvoutis explains. "And many hemlocks around here are hundreds of years old. They need to be saved and preserved. If the hemlocks are gone, it would change the ecology of the entire environment."
For more information about the SBC at HCC, contact Sharron Donnahoe at (828) 627-4512. For more information about NCMBC visit the website at www.ncmbc.us. For more information about MatchForce or to register your small business, visit www.MatchForce.org.
Pictured left to right are: Teresa Bouchonnet, a North Carolina Military Business Center Specialist; Frank Varvoutis, a 2004 Haywood Community College Forest Management graduate and owner of Hemlock Healers, Inc.; Frank's wife Erin and daughter Lily; and Sharron Donnahoe, Director of the Small Business Center at Haywood Community College. Varvoutis recently received a contract for work for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with help from Bouchonnet and Donnahoe.