Government contractors brace for spending cuts

Some companies have built successful businesses on government funding. Now, as Washington gets ready to begin automatic budget cuts, these firms are taking stock.

Chloeta Fire: Fights wildfires
chloeta fire government business
Revenue: $1 million
# of employees: 49
Based in: Oklahoma City

Mark Masters isn't afraid of danger. He's fought wildfires for nearly a decade.

In 2009, he took a personal gamble. He quit his job as a federal wildland firefighter, cashed in his retirement savings and started a firm specializing in putting out wildfires.

"I found a niche and positioned myself as an expert in it," he said. But the economy was battered by the recession. This could have made it very difficult to get his shoestring operation off the ground.

But Masters scored his first federal contract in 2009. Today, 90% of his business comes from such contracts.

As a Native-American-owned business -- Masters is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma -- Chloeta Fire also qualified for "disadvantaged business" status. This has made it easier for him to get contracts to provide provide fire trucks, crew, apparatus and logistical services.

Now he's trying to get hired by the government to provide helicopters and airplanes. Automatic budget cuts could stymie his effort. Masters is concerned.

But even if he loses some contracts -- such as for his training services -- he's hopeful that contracts to fight wildland fires won't be affected.

"The federal government is obligated to put out wildfires. Our services are core to public safety. We hope these types of contracts are the last to be cut," he said.


- Last updated March 12 2013 11:55 AM ET
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