The B-21 Raider is seen on Dec. 2, 2022, in Palmdale, Calif.

The B-21 Raider is seen on Dec. 2, 2022, in Palmdale, Calif. (U.S. Air Force)

(Tribune News Service) — The US Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District has awarded Conti Federal Services a $70 million contract to construct the B-21 Radio Frequency Facility, dubbed the RF Hangar, at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.

The construction and engineering firm specializing in military projects has built major critical infrastructure for the Army and Navy around the world and has regional offices in Israel, Italy, and New Jersey with their global headquarters in Florida. Over a year ago, the company began work to form a regional office in Rapid City and landing the RF Hangar contract is a major step forward for the company determined to have a major impact in the area.

The facility will be the seventh project to enter construction under the B-21 Raider strategic bomber staging effort in Ellsworth. The RF Hangar is an approximately 64,500-square-foot facility that will include an aircraft bay and associated back shop, administrative offices and facility support spaces.

Spending the last year forming relationships with other general contractors, vendors, trade partners, subcontractors, and military personnel, this is the first contract awarded to Conti Federal.

"This award is a significant win for the Conti Federal team, as this will be our first project at Ellsworth Air Force Base. It is a great opportunity for us to grow our relationships with local partners and the USACE Omaha District," said Conti Federal's Program Director, Ryan Kanzleiter. "We are very excited to begin work on the RF Hangar and to tap into our local team located out of our Rapid City office."

This week, Conti Federal employees met with local leaders during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its downtown office to celebrate the contract. The company's Chief Operating Officer Lou Zecca said his team has been working hard to land a contract in the Black Hills but now that they have been awarded one, the real work begins.

"We've gone after them all. And from our first proposal at Ellsworth to winning this one, we have grown considerably in our understanding of what's important to them and showing what it is that we do and how we do it differently," Zecca said. "It's important that people know who we are and that we're not just another out of town contractor here to build buildings, we're here to keep the world free and the country secure."

Conti Federal joined Elevate Rapid City for an official ribbon cutting ceremony, which was followed by a kickoff celebration for a recent contract award to construct a new B-21 RF Hangar Facility at Ellsworth Air Force Base.

Conti Federal joined Elevate Rapid City for an official ribbon cutting ceremony, which was followed by a kickoff celebration for a recent contract award to construct a new B-21 RF Hangar Facility at Ellsworth Air Force Base. (Conti Federal/Facebook)

Rapid City is a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family but to keep highly skilled and educated workers here, companies like Conti Federal need to set up shop and commit to positively impacting local economies, according to Zecca.

"The ground is fertile for growth and with programs like (those at) School of Mines there's real opportunity to become an economic engine. We have a lot of people who work remote but to have people leave the office at night and go home to their families is important," Zecca said. "I mean, I'm not an economist but that fuels economic development which leads to a good taxpayer base and more schools and more shops and on and on, but it comes down to here being a good place to live and grow our regional office."

Construction projects across the west and Midwest will soon be managed through the Rapid City office. Recently, Conti Federal came in second for a project in Minot, North Dakota and was awarded the contract to build the Helicopter and Tactical Response Force Facility at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Currently employing eight Rapid City residents, the office is capable of growth similar to their Israel and New Jersey offices that employ dozens, sometimes over a hundred locals for a single project, Zecca said.

"You can now put a box around the region for all the majority of work going on at our Rapid City headquarters. We hope to use the additional contracts coming out of Ellsworth Air Force Base to fuel our growth and to be the geographic center of all of that. We're chasing some right now and I suspect that we have a few more coming." Zecca said, "That aspect is critically important because as a company, we're really looking at making sure that we have built the workforce to sustain our operations 10 or 20 years down the road."

Competition to win contracts is fierce between construction companies, Zecca said, but local companies have welcomed Conti Federal, even going so far as sharing subcontractors during projects. Collaboration is common, he said, because they all share the same mission: keep America safe.

"At Ellsworth, three general contractors will be working on multiple sites harmoniously so each of us have to be a good neighbor. Once you're awarded, we're all working together because we have a singular mission to deploy this aircraft, protect the United States and ensure that the Air Force is getting what they need." Zecca said, "It's bigger than one contractor and we know we're all here for a really important reason."

Conti Federal estimates Work on the Radio Frequency Facility to be complete by September 2025.

(c)2023 Rapid City Journal, S.D.

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