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Hester Group among American Express OPEN’s VIP Award winners

At the “Grow Your Business through Government Contracting” event in Dallas, American Express OPEN, the small business division of the financial services company, recognized three small business owners—including Hester Taylor Clark of Hester Group—for their remarkable achievements in government contracting with the second annual Victory in Procurement (VIP) Awards.

Hester Taylor Clark of Jacksonville, Fla.-headquartered, The Hester Group, a strategic communications and program management company was awarded Woman Contractor of the Year. Through government contracting – which makes up 90% of the company’s revenues – The Hester Group has grown to become one of the largest African-American, woman-owned strategic communications and program management agencies in Northeast Florida. The business also has a satellite office in Alexandria, Va. The Hester Group has doubled its staff and expanded their offices due to government contracting. 2011 revenues are projected to increase by 175% over 2010.

“Small businesses have the power to drive this economy. Their success is America’s success,” said Karen-Michelle Mirko, director of customer advocacy at American Express OPEN. “We are celebrating three business owners for their diligence, persistence and success in selling to the world’s largest customer. These owners are the shining examples that small businesses need to see so that they too can grow their business.”

All business owners had the opportunity to meet government procurement officials, network and learn from fellow business owners as well as experts, and receive free business counseling through SCORE Roundtable Coaching.

The awardees were recognized in the categories of Government Contractor of the Year, Woman Contractor of the Year and Teaming Contractor of the Year. Candidates provided details about their work and success in government contracting via a detailed application which was evaluated by a panel of judges.

The other 2011 winners are:

•Government Contractor of the Year was awarded to Randy Lebolo of Boynton Beach, Fla.-based Lebolo Construction Management, a construction management firm. Attending government contracting events, visiting government agencies and forming key relationships with contracting officers, Lebolo Construction has been on the fast track to contracting success. Obtaining 8(a) certification and being on the GSA schedule has helped the company grow through the recession and hire new employees. After winning several small 8(a) contracts, Lebolo Construction was recently awarded its largest contract to date – an $18 million mentor-protégé agreement. Ninety percent of Lebolo Construction revenues are generated through government contracts, and 2011 revenues are projected to increase by 40% over 2010.

•Teaming Contractor of the Year was awarded to Lisa Firestone of Bethesda, Md.-based Managed Care Advisors Inc. (MCA) is a woman-owned, small business specializing in workers’ compensation case management services and employee benefits and disability management consulting. Since entering the government contracting arena, MCA’s workforce has quadrupled, and today, 85% of the company’s revenues are generated through federal government contracts. Ms. Firestone attributes teaming relationships as an integral part of MCA’s success and anticipates 50% revenue growth this year.

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