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Collins-Russell: A Mentor-Protégé Program

Collins-Russell: A Mentor-Protégé Program

At Russell, a lasting community impact is one of our six core values. It is our philosophy to improve the communities in which we live and do business through volunteerism and giving…but it is so much more than that.  We are also committed to the development of our small business partners through a relationship called a Mentor-Protégé Program.

The Mentor-Protégé program is federal government program, administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA). This program is designed to motivate and encourage large business, or prime contractor firms, to provide mutually beneficial developmental assistance to small business, veteran-owned small business, service-disabled veteran-owned small business, HUBZone small business, small disadvantaged business, and women-owned small business concerns 1.  Through this Mentor-Protégé relationship, a large business is able to provide valuable learning opportunities to a small business, which in turn allows them to participate in federal government contracting programs on their own upon graduation from the program after five years.


Russell’s History with Mentor-Protégé Relationships

Russell’s history of participation in the SBA Mentor-Protégé program dates back to 2012 when we first partnered with Covenant Construction Services, a certified small business and commercial general contractor. Although, Russell and Covenant were not successful in securing projects under the initial Mentor-Protégé agreement, both companies still enjoy a collaborative and successful relationship.

Fast forward to September of 2016 when Russell’s second Mentor-Protégé agreement was successfully certified with the Small Business Administration. This time with Collins Concrete, an 8A certified concrete contractor based in Buffalo, Iowa. Founded in 1985, Collins Concrete specializes in heavy highway and commercial construction. They perform work with the federal government at the Rock Island Arsenal, local municipalities, school construction and state projects.

Russell had a prior working relationship with Collins Concrete on numerous projects as a concrete subcontractor. After learning they were interested in continuing to expand their capabilities, and having only 15 total employees including field staff, discussions began about the potential of a mentor-protégé agreement.

It is important to note that certifying a Mentor-Protégé relationship with the SBA is no small task. This required an over 1,100 page application process to the federal government detailing information on the large (mentor) company and the small (protégé) company. It also includes a detailed business plan that was must delivered on behalf of the certified relationship. This application also then goes through a lengthy review and clarification process, prior to finally being certified by the SBA.


Projects Awarded

Since establishing our mentor-protégé partnership, Collins-Russell 8a, LLC, between Russell and Collins Concrete, we’ve been awarded two projects at the Rock Island Arsenal in Rock Island, IL.

Building 102

Building 102 consisted of a 11,601 s.f. interior office remodel. It included the removal of all existing walls, ceilings, finishes, fin tube covers, ductwork and lighting, new and updated offices, ceilings, finishes, ductwork and LED lighting. The project duration was two months and total value was $1.5 MM.

Electrical Phase 4

This project consisted of the replacement and upgrade of aged electrical infrastructure on the Arsenal Island along South Avenue. Collins-Russell removed and replaced underground and above ground high voltage feeders lines and transformers and concrete pads at the electrical service entrance to the buildings along the route. Several buildings received new meters, switchgear and distribution panels as well. The $1.86 MM project took approximately 13 months (June 2017 to July 2018).


What are the Benefits?

There are numerous benefits for both the large/prime contractor and the small business when entering into a Mentor-Protégé relationship, including:

  • Clients are given access to greater capabilities due to the larger size of the firm, which could also include things like new technologies. They are also supporting a small business.
  • Government agencies can support small businesses and meet their agencies’ small business prime and subcontracting goals.
  • Protégés gain access to training, financial support and experience and insight from a larger firm. It also helps them broaden their client base and give them the chance to participate in new large-scale efforts they may not have been able to lead on their own.
  • Mentors are able to help small businesses grow while collectively being seen as a larger business in the eyes of potential clients. They are also able to expand their small business subcontracting base and go after work that otherwise would not have had access to.

For Collins-Russell 8a, LLC specifically servicing the Rock Island Arsenal is an important aspect of our pre-established agreement. With over $123 MM worth of projects completed for the Department of Defense at the Rock Island Arsenal over the past 12+ years by Russell, the Collins-Russell mentor-protégé agreement allows us to continue to grow relationships with this owner entity in ways that we couldn’t before.  Plus – we get to help a hard-working small business-like Collins Concrete expand their services and grow with the Quad Cities community. It’s a win-win for everyone!

For additional information about Russell’s participation in Small Business Administration’s Mentor-Protégé Program or to learn more, contact us at


1 – Department of Homeland Security: