Military spouse business loses Joint Base contract to higher bidder

Published: May. 20, 2014 at 10:51 PM HST
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A boot camp class, founded by a Navy veteran to cater to military spouses, is being kicked off Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam after a fitness contract was offered instead to a higher bidder.

Military families are outraged -- saying the base shouldn't make decisions based on money, but rather on supporting spouses on post.

DumBell Fitness has been operating on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for the past five years, but this week it found out it will no longer be able to offer classes, because it did not receive a contract through Morale, Welfare and Recreation.  MWR, as it's commonly known, provides support and leisure services on base -- from pools to golf courses and fitness centers.

According to the Navy Region Hawai'i bid proposal, MWR requires a minimum commission of 15% total gross sales of service per month or higher to award a contract.

"The statistics show, if you look up an average small business, the gross profit is 20%.  Ours is 15% because our class costs are so low and because we give out in wages to other military spouses," explained DumBell Fitness' founder and owner Christina Landry, a Navy veteran.

Based on the numbers DumBell Fitness provided Hawaii News Now, Landry shows if her business was required to pay 15% gross, after expenses, the company would owe more than it makes.

"There's no way!  It would actually be a little bit higher than 100% of our net profit," Landry says.

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam released the following the statement:

"Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam supports and appreciates efforts to promote health and fitness, and quality of life programs, and we are dedicated to ensuring all programs are safe, meet standards and are legally sanctioned.  Navy Region Northwest's contracting agent recently completed a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a contract to provide fitness services on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The RFP was conducted to provide full and fair competition and allow all interested parties to have an opportunity to bid on the contract, in accordance with the law and applicable instructions."

Landry says her business has operated legally and responsibly for the last five years.  She says she went through the proper Forest City channels, as she was initially told to because the women were working out on Forest City ground, which included obtaining her state and federal tax licenses, insurance and filing all necessary waivers.

According to Landry, MWR didn't take notice of her program til it had grown to more than 300 clients about two years ago.

"MWR asked for 20% gross of the business.  We couldn't provide that.  We're a small business.  We give back to our community through wages and the class costs are real low.  Our profit margin is right about 15%," said Landry.

Landry says JAG got involved and she signed a contract recognizing she was operated a privately-owned organization on base, which has been in place for the past two years until she says she was contacted by MWR again and told they still needed a commission for liability reason.

"I met with the Joint Base commander and the MWR director and with a manager at Fleet and  Family support.  They put in a contract to the procurement office for a boot camp training style class and I was told DumBell Fitness would be notified when that contract was through procurement and that we would have a negotiation period for that contract," Landry said.  "They assured me that it had nothing to do with money that it was the overall value that the boo tcamp brought to base.  I put in my bid for 5% gross and just last week we found out that we were outbid by another boot camp company out in town. I was told my bid was not even entertained because we didn't meet the 15% gross minimum that the contract asked for."

Dumbell Fitness charges about $9 a class, which includes on-site babysitting.  There are seven locations in different residential areas across the base and trainers are either military spouses or veterans.

"We're not only workout partners, but we're military sisters as well," said Dimitria Manning, a Marine Corps wife, who started working as a trainer for DumBell Fitness about six months ago.  She says she and others were stunned when they learned the business wasn't awarded the base contract. "It was really heartbreaking and shocking, I didn't expect it.  I just figured we've been here, this is something that we do, it contributes to the community."

There are currently about 250 women enrolled, who say they're not just building up muscle, but each other.  As military spouses, many of them are far from home and raising a family while their husbands are deployed.

"If there's one thing that you know about military families, it's that we are resilient and we will move on and we will keep going," said Aly Tugaoen, an active-duty Army reservist who credits the boot camp classes with getting her into shape. "I didn't join until 2011 when we first moved here.  I was overweight by 20 pounds -- I couldn't barely do a pushup before I joined the Army and these ladies have really just pushed me and encouraged me.  Now I maxed my PT test for my pushups which is absolutely unbelievable -- something I would have never thought possible three years ago."

DumBell Fitness filed a protest and received word Tuesday it was denied.  Landry plans to appeal and hopes supporters will reach out to the the Joint Base commander as well.

"We're urging them to ask why was this business -- that is so important to military spouse health -- mental health and wellness -- pushed off when it's already benefiting base?" Landry asked. "Ultimately we want these boot camps to stay in our residence and we want them ran by DumBell Fitness.  If it's not broke, don't fix it."

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