Auto industry specialist's new bottom line is Soldier support
May 19, 2011
WARREN, Mich.--After more than a decade with one of the 'big three' automobile companies in the Detroit area, Robert Sampson was ready for more than an oil change.
Sampson enjoyed the benefits and perks of working for a Fortune 500 company and found his niche working in the procurement and supply side of the house. Life was good.
Then came the late 1990s.
"I worked for a few different divisions of the company and enjoyed working with our supplier base," said the 40-year-old Sampson.
"Things changed for the company significantly after the late '90s due to multiple acquisitions/mergers and the gradual decline of the auto industry and U.S. economy. The profitability and the resources of the company dwindled, and increased responsibility was placed on those who hung in there."
Sampson said a combination of the uncertainty of the company's future and his readiness to explore other options outside of the automotive industry led him to the government.
"I knew I'd have to think out of the box if I planned to work outside of the automotive industry in Detroit. Through networking and research, I discovered the Army Contracting Command-Warren (then called the TACOM Contracting Center) was hiring people with backgrounds similar to mine," he said. "I was able to meet a few people who worked there, and they had nothing but great things to say about the work, environment, etc. I submitted my resume, interviewed and was hired shortly after."
"Mr. Sampson is just the type of candidate we are looking for as we continue our efforts to revitalize our workforce, and bring a diversity of skill sets and experience to our business," said Harry Hallock, ACC-Warren executive director. "He brings a tremendous amount of private industry purchasing acumen that serves as a solid baseline for success in this organization. "
Hallock says the economic change in climate made it possible to hire someone with Sampson's credentials.
"Due to the downturn in the local automotive industry, I knew we had the opportunity to hire experienced employees to supplement our college hiring program, and I'm very pleased at the experience, maturity, and dedication Mr. Sampson brings to our workforce. I'd like to think that once we get them in the door, we have a pretty good chance of keeping them once they discover the magnitude of the work and the reason for our efforts," Hallock said.
A federal employee for more than two years now, Sampson is a contracting specialist with ACC-Warren and finds the change invigorating.
"The biggest differences are that contracts are awarded to U.S.-based companies almost exclusively, and negotiations tend to be more of a two-way street. We (the government) want our contractors to grow and be successful. In the automotive industry, negotiations are much more one-sided. I've seen many U.S.-based companies lose business to lower cost manufacturers overseas," he said.
For Sampson, the bottom line shifted from making a profit to providing goods and services for Soldiers.
"It's one of the most fulfilling aspects of my new career; because I know daily my efforts provide our Soldiers with what they need to support the mission. The contracts I award help to keep our Soldiers safe and protect civilians who may not be able to protect themselves. That means a lot to me."
In addition, Sampson said other major differences are the required adherence to policies such as the Federal Acquisition Regulation and others and the amount of interaction required with the legal team, and the amount of documentation required in the procurement process. In his former position, he seldom interacted with anyone in the legal division.
Not that far removed from his days of dealing with those in the commercial contracting industry, Sampson's perceptions of the government workforce and its dedication have shifted.
"While working in private industry, I never really comprehended the breadth and depth of the federal workforce and how they conducted business," he said. "I am constantly impressed with the diversity of education, culture and work experience of our workforce. It's a great place to be. I am extremely proud to call myself a federal contracting professional."