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City Economic Development Director Tony Boone, pictured here at a 2019 West Fry Boulevard/North Garden Avenue Improvement Project open house, said the city is happy to facilitate defense contractors such as Agile Defense finding office space and fill other needs when they land contracts on Fort Huachuca.

FORT HUACHUCA — Agile Defense, a Reston, Virginia-based contractor has landed a $16 million, five-year contract to conduct IT work for NETCOM on Fort Huachuca, and are in the running for three other sizable Department of Defense contracts that could bring more than 320 high-paying jobs to the area.

The initial contract, which Agile learned they had received about three weeks ago and begins April 2, will involve approximately 30 employees, said Agile Defense Chief Operating Officer Lonny Nichols, and helps ease the sting of the imminent loss of 245 jobs when a Northrop Grumman contract expires in May.

Nichols said the jobs are “all across the IT spectrum, from help desk to software development and everywhere in between — network support, system management, SharePoint software development.”

The company, which has been around for more than 20 years and has about 40 active contracts at nearly $150 million annually, recently hit the 700-employee threshold, Nichols said.

“We’re primarily DoD-focused, but we do have a little in the fed-civilian world,” Nichols said. “So, every branch of the military we support, but then we also support fourth-estate organizations like DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). And then we’ve got federal-civilian support in the Smithsonian and a few small Department of State contracts.”

Agile began their push for the current contract about a year and a half ago, said Operations Director Eric Richards, who added that they’ll move quickly to hire people for the needed positions.

“We’re very tapped into the (Sierra Vista Area Chamber of Commerce),” Richards said. “We set up two sessions for get-to-know-you events for some of the incumbent staff for this contract. ... And we’re tapped in with Arizona@Work (a statewide workforce development network). Their next hiring event is on the 27th at Cochise College, so we have a booth sponsorship over there.”

Richards said the event at Cochise College is not only aimed at recruiting talent from the college, but also anyone else who is qualified and interested in going to work for the contractor.

“It’s kind of an open venue for interested folks,” Richards said of the job fair-type setting.

Nichols and Richards expressed optimism about their chances of landing one, two or all of the other three contracts — Richards said they expect to learn decisions on those in the next six months or so — and, if successful, those contracts could translate to significant money and hundreds of new jobs coming to Fort Huachuca and the Sierra Vista area.

One of those is a five-year contract to support NETCOM that would bring approximately 20 jobs and pay about $1.8 million per year, Richards said.

The second is a larger, Global Enterprise Fabric (GIF) contract that would also be a five-year contract at about $10 million per year and would involve “north of 100 jobs here at Fort Huachuca,” according to Richards.

“It’s kind of like the Army’s own baked-in cloud for supporting Army organizations,” Richards said.

The third contract is even bigger — a Regional Cyber Center (RCC-C) contract that Richards said “will be coming out next year” — at around $30 million per year for the three-year contract. Richards said “that would be the big one, and that’s about 200 jobs.”

In addition to their work over the last year-plus with the SVACC and Arizona@Work, Richards said Agile Defense has been in contact with City of Sierra Vista officials to find appropriate work space accommodations and figure out how best to integrate into the community.

“I reached out to (City of Sierra Vista Economic Development Director) Tony Boone — I have to circle back around to him — because we’re exploring ... standing up our own office presence out here,” Richards said. “So, Tony is helping me with some of the local availability for office settings and whatnot.”

Boone, a retired Army colonel who worked as garrison commander on Fort Huachuca prior to joining city staff, said they have been talking since February 2019, with Boone and his office helping facilitate a company like Agile Defense moving into the city.

“We’ll show them in a rough order of magnitude where there are properties available, and then point them in the direction of the commercial brokers,” Boone said. “We don’t want to get in their business, but we try to help pare the list down a little bit and at least give them some ideas.”

As far as the city’s role in helping contractors identify and land lucrative Department of Defense and Army contracts on Fort Huachuca, Boone pointed to last year’s two-day Government Procurement Outlook Summit the city helped put on at Fort Huachuca. The city used funds from a $720,000 grant from the Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment in 2017 to sponsor their portion of the event, which Boone said “enabled those companies to gain access to additional contracts, both Department of Defense, state and other federal agencies.”

He added, “Really, we’re here, and that’s kind of what we’re designed to do, is to facilitate additional businesses coming into the community. Kind of what we do on a day-to-day basis, and some of it takes a long time. This one, like I said, we’re talking 13 months from first engagement until now.”

Boone noted that there have long been ebbs and flows when it comes to defense contracts on Fort Huachuca and thus had a measured response to the possibility of new jobs coming to Sierra Vista, but he acknowledged that city is pleased with anything that moves the needle in a positive direction.

“Perhaps we’re on the upside (regarding jobs created through defense contracts),” Boone said. “As we look at the population numbers on Fort Huachuca, and the jobs, in many cases the numbers have returned to some of the previous highs. Positive numbers, and of course bringing in new jobs, is always a good thing.”