Thursday, February 5, 2015

PSC acquires TechAmerica Foundation, ending 15-month saga

Tuesday - 2/3/2015, 4:16am EST Federal News Radio

By Jason Miller

Alan Chvotkin, Executive VP and Counsel, Professional Services Council
Download mp3

The 15-month collapse of TechAmerica, one of the venerable federal contractor organizations, ended Monday.

Like Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, the Professional Services Council acquired the remains of a once valuable property in the form of the TechAmerica Foundation and let the rest of the association shut down.

CompTIA, which bought TechAmerica in May, announced it would be for all intents and purposes getting out of the federal public sector market.

Todd Thibodeaux, CEO of CompTIA, wrote in an email to TechAmerica members, obtained by Federal News Radio, that the association would focus on its core capabilities, education and training, and on state and local advocacy.

"Effective immediately, we will no longer support the Federal Public Sector Committee activity and its related leadership structure. This means that committees including Procurement, Defense, GSA, and other Federal Public Sector groups and networking sessions will no longer take place," Thibodeaux wrote in the email.

Part of that decision was finding an organization to take over the TechAmerica Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization.

Stan Soloway, president of PSC, said CompTIA approached the industry association about 10 or 12 days ago and the deal was done quickly.

"We think it makes sense and will be beneficial for our member companies," Soloway said during a press briefing Monday.

"This was straightforward as it suggests. Something like this is usually not this straightforward."

PSC, which paid nothing for the foundation, is taking on some the foundation's employees as its only real risk and cost.

By taking over the TechAmerica Foundation, PSC also gets several well-known assets, including the Defense Strategic Planning Forum, the American Technology Awards Dinner, the Vision conference and the Federal CIO Survey.

"When you look at the TechAmerica Foundation it really has been for many years the intellectual thought leader for the TechAmerica operations," Soloway said. "It is well-thought of, the quality of the work has always been very high level and it fits perfectly with our own organization structure and mission."

Soloway said the foundation will give PSC the ability to take a deeper and broader look at the market.

In June, PSC adopted a new operating model featuring an Acquisition and Business Policy Council and a Technology Policy Council to lead the organization's agenda.

Alan Chvotkin, PSC's senior vice president and general counsel, said the transfer of the TechAmerica Foundation to PSC accelerated the organization's plans that were underway.

"Timing is everything," Chvotkin said in an interview on Federal News Radio's Federal Drive radio show. "Over a year ago, we had planned out a strategy with our board of directors and our membership to expand our offerings in the commercial and technology marketplace and service the members. We had always had our eye on the work that TechAmerica and CompTIA were doing."

PSC's Alan Chvotkin explains the quick acquisition of TechAmerica. Click here to listen to Chvotkin's entire interview on the Federal Drive.

Soloway said there was minimal overlap between PSC and TechAmerica membership. He estimated that about 60-to-70 percent of TechAmerica's members are not members of PSC right now.

Chvotkin said PSC and CompTIA have to jump through a few remaining legal loop holes, but the deal should be completed in a few weeks.

Soloway added PSC would have more details, including a new name for TechAmerica Foundation and its goals for 2015, including plans for the Vision Conference, in the coming month or so.

The CompTIA play for TechAmerica made little sense to most observers in the federal market. The organization is based in Chicago and never really had a federal sector lobbying presence.

The future of TechAmerica started to look bad in September when CompTIA all but cleaned house of the federal advocacy staff, and brought in two consultants to help decide the future of the organization.

Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Business Partners and the former executive director of the Coalition for Government Procurement, and Bill Greenwalt, a visiting fellow at the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, helped run the organization for the last few months.

Greenwalt recently returned to the Senate Armed Services Committee to oversee acquisition policy.

Allen said by email that "It's been a real privilege to work with CompTIA and Liz Hyman. She and the organization are class acts that do a great job representing a broad array of IT industry issues."

TechAmerica got its start in 1943 when David Packard of Hewlett-Packard formed the West Coast Electronics Manufacturing Association to help companies secure government contracts during World War II.

The association started to fall apart publicly in 2013 when four top executives left to start a rival association. Soon, membership took a nose dive and TechAmerica faced cash flow problems.

Soloway said he had conversations previously for PSC to buy TechAmerica, but the timing wasn't right until now.

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