According to country singer Toby Keith, a soldier “will always do their duty no matter the price, counting up the cost and knowing the sacrifice.” After honorably serving the United States to protect American freedoms, many veterans live these same tenets as they begin new endeavors as business owners. In fact, veteran-owned businesses employ approximately 5.7 million individuals throughout the United States equating to an estimated $210 billion in annual payroll and $1.2 trillion in sales. Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Gabe Ruiz represents one of three million veterans who successfully served his country in the public service and private sector.
Shifting the Mission
Ruiz served 26 years as an Army Communications and Technology Acquisition Officer before becoming an entrepreneur. During his tenure, Ruiz was instrumental in the process to modernize, streamline and restructure the entire IT infrastructure for the Army by conducting research, implementing pilot programs, and deploying numerous IT systems at more than 100 Army installations across the world.
After retiring in 2006, Ruiz was determined to begin a new venture. A friend recommended he start a consulting firm for companies wanting to conduct business with the government. Ruiz transitioned from military to civilian life with ease; education and military experience provided an abundance of knowledge and expertise. Ruiz focused his “mission” on developing, implementing and executing a private sector business which supported the Department of Defense. “My mission as a civilian was to identify government needs and necessities, particularly within the Army,” Ruiz said. “I wanted to figure out how to bring value to government customers by modernizing their IT systems.”
Ruiz founded Advanced IT Concepts, Inc. (AITC), a Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business and Minority 8(a) Information Technology company based in Winter Springs, Florida. AITC focuses on IT and logistics solutions for the local, state and federal government and private companies. “We engage our customers by helping them identify their needs. We determine potential alternatives and results to meet their business requirements,” Ruiz said. “For example, we use technological solutions to implement IT systems integration, IT infrastructure connectivity, logistics support, data center support and cybersecurity protection. Organizations utilizing new, innovative and cost-effective IT solutions perform more effectively, efficiently and economically, achieving overall success more often and much faster,” Ruiz said.
“Employees are our greatest asset,” Ruiz said. “The Army values loyalty, duty, respect, self-service, honor, integrity and personal courage. Many of our employees have military backgrounds and our company’s focus is the Department of Defense; therefore, we embrace military principles, beliefs and ideals.”
AITC recruits, hires and maintains unsurpassed talent to innovate and exceed client expectations. The talent pool incorporates a vast knowledge of the government, IT logistics and telecommunications infrastructure. To ensure goals are met, AITC provides advisory services, strategic planning, program management, system development, technology specialists, engineering, logistics and training support.
“Due to our team’s proven expertise and experience, AITC is one of only a few small companies holding a high-level security clearance,” Ruiz said.
Geography is Everything
AITC considered multiple locations when setting up its headquarters. “We researched Georgia, Arizona and Virginia because of our relationship with the government,” Ruiz said. “We settled in Florida because of the proximity to the Research Park next to the University of Central Florida (UCF).” Central Florida offered easy access to the Department of Defense; Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division; U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation; U.S. Army Simulations and Training Technology Center; Marine Corps Program Manager for Training Systems; and, the Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation. In addition, it was near UCF, numerous medical institutions and private corporations. “Florida is a pro-business state and we are in the backyard of our customers,” Ruiz said.
Teaming Up with the Army
In 2015, AITC won a 5-year, $45 million Army contract. The following year, AITC earned a $70 million contract with Army Medical Simulation Support Services based on an evaluation as the best qualified contractor possessing the business practices and capabilities to meet or exceed the necessary requirements due to several years of exceptional past performance. AITC will assist in providing procurement and logistics services for medical-based simulation training. Additionally, AITC was awarded 10 government contracts based on several years of exceptional past performance. These acquisitions have a combined value of $13 million.
“The Army applies innovative technologies, tools and equipment to develop information that benefits and best generate operational decisions, results and solutions,” Ruiz said. “AITC aids their efforts in training advancement and skill development essential to successful missions.”
The newest contract acquisition for AITC is with the U.S. Department of Agriculture worth $3.9 million. Over the past five years, the U.S. Forest Service’s network capacity has amplified rapidly with increased user demands and new technological requirements. This contract addresses the security concerns of the older primary network equipment with new replacements and modernizing current technology.
“We are excited to work with the USDA Forest Service on a larger scale. As demonstrated over the past 10 years, we are a reliable and valuable resource for the federal government to obtain cost-effective, innovative technology solutions. This is a great opportunity to cultivate additional business for long-term relationships and growth,” Ruiz says.
“The contract continues to boost AITC’s reputation as a trusted professional services provider to the federal government. It translates to additional work, extra program support staff and increased revenue for our company, spurring substantial success to our local economy and state. We are continuing to strive for success by adding to our contract portfolio,” Ruiz said.
Expanding AITC Facilities
Due to the increase in contracts and its logistics services expansion, AITC recently purchased a 12,300-square foot warehouse in Longwood, Florida to augment other existing facilities. The company is also in the process of procuring a new office building in Research Park to be closer to its main customers. These investments help support current programs while increasing capacity for future growth.
2017 Small Business Person of the Year
AITC was recently a finalist with the Association for Corporate Growth 2017 Smart Awards and has won several awards including the Fast 50, Fast 100, Florida Companies to Watch from GrowFL and Veterans of Influence from Orlando Business Journal.
In 2017, Ruiz was named the Small Business Person of the Year for the North Florida District by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) North Florida District Office, which includes the top 43 counties of Florida from Pensacola to Jacksonville to Orlando. “I appreciate the encouragement I have received through the mentoring and advisory support from the Florida Small Business Development Center at UCF,” Ruiz said. “It has motivated me as I have grown AITC to achieve greater success. It is an honor to receive such a prestigious award.”