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Administrator Honors Firefighter, Manufacturers at Anaheim Ceremony

Remarks by
Lurita A. Doan
Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration
Wildland Fire Ceremony/ 2008 GSA Expo
Anaheim, California
April 25, 2008


Thank you very much, Jim. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

Usually when we talk about GSA, we talk about thousands upon thousands of products and services, from laptops and printers to video conferencing and software solutions. We talk about workspace and fleet vehicles and buying in bulk and passing savings on to our customer agencies.

Very important, but a little dry.

What we don’t talk about enough, I think, is people, and how everything this agency does affects the daily lives of average citizens. Most times it’s not very dramatic, and let’s face it, we’re kind of the middle man between government and citizens. Those of you who have business in a federal courthouse, for instance, think of lawyers and judges. Few stop to think about the process through which that grand courthouse was designed and built.

That was us: GSA.

What we have today is quite different. Today we have a story that brings it all home. First, we have a real person who --- this may be the understatement of 2008! -- benefited directly from one of the millions of products GSA supplies to its customer agencies. And second, we have the manufacturer, the small firm whose owners at some point made the strategic decision to compete for business awarded by the federal government. In this case, that meant answering our call for the unique supplies that help firefighters do their job in the most extreme conditions.

Think of it:

  • The intense heat;
  • The roar of the fire;
  • The blinding, choking smoke;
  • The firefighter battling furiously. But the enemy is relentless … and suddenly it is all around him … every escape route cut off by flame.

That is what happened last summer in wildland fires in South Dakota and in South Tahoe, California.

Firefighter Grant Gifford will tell his story in his own words. All I’ll say is that we’re thrilled that he’s here to tell it.

For that, we thank a small business located hundreds of miles from South Dakota in Wichita, Kansas. Weckworth Manufacturing is one of two companies that supply the government with the portable fire shelters that saved Grant Gifford’s life.

Also with us is the other supplier, Anchor Industries of Evansville, Indiana. Weckworth and Anchor fire shelters also saved the lives of firefighters in the Lake Tahoe wildland fire.

At GSA, we like to call ourselves the government’s premier procurement agency. We provide superior goods, services and workspace at best value to other government agencies so they can perform their core missions.

But we certainly don’t do it by ourselves.

GSA’s success hinges on the reliability and resourcefulness of its industry partners. And that relationship is never more important than during times of national emergency.  One of my priorities as administrator has been to ramp up our ability to respond in times of crisis. We created a new Office of Emergency Response and Recovery that is, among other things, working closely with FEMA to see how we can speed the delivery of urgently needed supplies to our first responders after a disaster strikes.

Again, much of our success depends on our partners in the private sector, especially the thousands of small businesses across America that so often are the source of not only innovation, but inspiration as well.

At this time, I’d like to present certificates of appreciation to:

  • Brandon Hoffman, President of Weckworth Manufacturing;
  • And John Montrastelle , Anchor Industries Military and Government Sales Manager;
  • We also have a token of our esteem and gratitude for firefighter Grant Gifford. (fellow firefighter Josh Lang, also saved by a shelter, could not be here today).

Last, I also want to publicly thank our Wildland Fire Program employees for their hard work and dedication.

Now I’m going to turn the stage over to Grant, who will tell his story and demonstrate how the shelter works.

Thank you all very much.