Although the big news to come out of the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., this week was the $1.1 billion in contracts awarded to three private companies to develop the next generation of spacecraft, a local company also got some good news of its own recently from NASA: a $40 million, 10-year contract to provide food service at the space agency’s main launch base.
How did Fresh Ideas, a Columbia-based food service company founded in 2000, beat out food service giants for a chance to run the dining options at the Kennedy Space Center? “That’s a good question,” said Matt Clervi, the company’s owner and executive vice president. “We’re kind of surprised ourselves.”
The company has come a long way from the single contract that Clervi and co-founder John Orscheln started the business with — Central Methodist University. Now the two, along with co-owner Dennis Owens, are running a company in charge of about 20 contracts with colleges and universities, corporate clients and governments. The NASA contract, which begins Oct. 1, is the company’s first with the federal government and represents a nearly 20 percent increase in business, Clervi said.
Fresh Ideas does most of its business in the Midwest, and Clervi was looking to expand into the Florida market when he came across the opportunity with NASA. It was late in the bidding process, and Fresh Ideas only had a week to put together a proposal, said Jami Jones, director of strategic management.
After NASA representatives visited Westminster College, one of Fresh Ideas’ clients, they decided to go with the small Missouri company. “It’s pretty awesome, actually,” Clervi said. “They’ve got nice big budgets, and we love to throw great parties.”
Fresh Ideas formed a new division to operate the NASA contract, Fresh Ideas Southeast, and it is partnering with Orlando-based caterer Puff n’ Stuff. In all, Fresh Ideas expects to add about 60 Florida employees to its workforce of 450, 200 of whom work in Mid-Missouri, Jones said.
Fresh Ideas plans to operate restaurants such as Subway and Starbucks in its offerings there, the first time the company has used franchises in a big way with one of its contracts. “This is a good way for us to kind of get to know our franchises and kind of practice our high-end catering and bring that back to our universities,” he said.
Fresh Ideas will be responsible for providing dining options for the 9,000 people who work at Kennedy Space Center and as many as 2,000 more from the adjacent Patrick Air Force Base. The job numbers, though, are low compared to the height of the shuttle program, when about 17,000 people worked at Kennedy Space Center, the Associated Press reported. The functions performed previously by the space shuttles are being outsourced to private companies, and NASA will shift its focus to deep space exploration around Mars and the asteroid belt. Clervi said he expects the number of people his company has to feed to begin rising as the new programs gear up.
Jacob Barker is the Tribune’s business reporter. Reach him at (573) 815-1722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
local company, kennedy space center, Central Methodist University, Matt Clervi, food service, nasa contract <BR/>