EAST MACHIAS, Maine — SuperTek, a division of Occam Solutions, is protesting its recent loss of a major contract with the U.S. Navy to a competitor, InquisIT LLC.
The contract was serviced out of East Machias and provided support to the Navy’s 200,000 civilian employees when they had questions about or needed to make changes to their benefits such as health and life insurance.
Officials from SuperTek could not be reached Tuesday to determine how many jobs were affected by the loss of the contract or what they hope to gain from the protest.
InquisIT, meanwhile, has opened a new office in neighboring Marshfield and is training some former SuperTek employees as well as new hires. InquisIT Vice President Kevin Bell said Tuesday that the protest process through the U.S. General Accounting Office could take 100 days, but he is confident his company will prevail.
“We’re going forward,” he said Tuesday in a telephone interview from the company’s Virginia headquarters. “We are using this time to train workers.”
InquisIT is an Internet technology services firm that has a number of federal clients including the FBI, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Marshal’s Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The company was founded in 2004.
Bell said he chose to set up the new office to service the Navy contract in Marshfield “because it is good for the economy there.” He said the availability of a ready work force also played a large role. He said that 20 people will be employed at the Marshfield location on Steve’s Lane. He did not know how many of those 20 will be coming from SuperTek.
Chet Childs, a former SuperTek employee, has been hired to manage the new facility.
In 2001, U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe pressed the U.S. Navy to supply some services from the Down East area after the Cutler Navy base was closed. The SuperTek facility became an experiment of sorts to try to prove to the Navy that these types of services could be outsourced.
When the Navy issued its requests for proposals last June, according to Bell, more than 20 companies responded. Of those, only two — Occam Solutions and InquisIT — said they would keep the call center in Maine.
Calls to Occam Solutions headquarters in Virginia on Tuesday were not returned. It is unclear how many employees at the East Machias facility will move to InquisIT and how many will lose their jobs.
According to the company’s website, Occam Solutions has been in East Machias for 10 years and also has offices in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. The company provides services nearly identical to InquistIT, such as benefits support. Customers include the U.S. Army, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of State and Sony Corp.