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MBDA Helps Engineering Firm Overcome Challenges


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In October 2015, several days of torrential rains caused major flooding in metropolitan Columbia, South Carolina. The region’s sewer and water-control infrastructure was over-whelmed.  Dozens of dams ruptured or were over-run, sending massive amounts of water coursing into residential and commercial districts, threatening lives and businesses.

In the midst of the fast-moving disaster, Jimmy Chao, founder and president of a Columbia-based engineering and surveyor firm, Chao and Associates, sprang into action. Mr. Chao and his team determined that a temporary rock dam constructed across the canal would have to be used to stop the canal from draining and they successfully staunched the breach.  This is just one of the company’s many accomplishments over the years that highlight their continued growth.  

Founded in 1987, Chao’s company built a sterling reputation of technical expertise and critical thinking that has positioned them as a “go to” company for tailored work on planned jobs or in a crisis.  With close to 30 years in business, Chao and Associates knew they needed more than engineering expertise to expand the company.  To Jimmy Chao’s frustration, he found that he and his team-members were experiencing difficulty gaining access to large markets, procuring contracts, and developing successful business promotion plans.

So in 2009, Chao and Associates became a client of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Center in Columbia.

After joining forces with the MBDA Columbia Business Center, Chao and Associates received guidance and support on crucial tactical and strategic areas. Through networking opportunities and workshops available at the Business Center, Chao gained valuable insights on how to fully utilize the 8(a) certification held by his firm; this allowed Chao and Associates to increase its presence in the federal market.

“Columbia MBDA Business Center has provided various research, proposal writing, marketing and referral services that have helped Chao and Associates grow and enter new markets,” said Chao. 

Thanks to the range of resources and support that Chao and Associates receive from the Columbia MBDA Business Center, Jimmy Chao’s firm has grown to become a reliable sector leader.  They have also been acknowledged with numerous engineering awards, including the 2014 Minority Business of the Year Award from the Columbia MBDA Business Center, and the 2009 Civil Engineer of the Year Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

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