CI VIEW: Investment Management Enterprise (IME) sets sights on consumer sector, CEO says

WASHINGTON (BBN) — After building an USD 25m federal homeland security business in a dozen years, Twyla N. Garrett is setting her sights on parlaying that expertise into success in the B-2-B and consumer markets.

[IME CEO Twyla N. Garrett speaks to BBN using CI Glass  at “Recognizing Excellence: Honoring Female Veterans” hosted by Ladies America at the National Press Club of Washington on Dec. 2, 2013]

Garrett, president and chief executive officer of Washington DC-based Investment Management Enterprise (IME) in an interview with Black Business News, said she will be meeting with venture capital consultants in the next couple of weeks to raise USD 1.5m for establishing a corporate headquarter in Atlanta to develop software solutions that help consumers keep and transport their records safely.

“Access to personal health information definitely can be used as a terrorism threat,” said Garrett, noting that a life could be in danger if the information how to control a pacemaker gets into the wrong hands.

With the consumer possibilities and the initiative to offer cyber security and IT support services to corporate clients, Garrett predicts her private sector sales could go from nothing to exceeding her federal government business in three to five years.

The entrepreneur said she has chosen Atlanta as her new corporate base because office rents are a third of what they are in DC and the location provides close access to potential large customers including Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL)  and AT&T (NYSE: T).

IME, like many DC-based companies, are forced to go to other major cities such as Atlanta for access to capital.

The major Wall Street banks such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch/Bank of America all have Wealth Management and government affairs operations based in Washington, DC but continue to ignore Washington, DC as a global financial center worthy of its investment bankers.

Morgan Stanley Chairman and Chief Executive Officer James P. Gorman highlighted this when he spoke at the Economic Club of Washington on July 18, 2013 accompanied by a small army of Morgan Stanley government affairs officers and private bankers but not one representative of the bank’s investment banking division.

Morgan Stanley wealth managers include characters such as Manhattan-based Tony Maddalena who drives a Ferrari and introduces a client to a Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based businessman with questionable housing deals in Haiti and Colombia while Morgan Stanley investment bankers are consistently ranked among the world’s best in terms of deal volume and value.

In terms of broadening her federal presence, Garrett said she is going after a USD 25m contract with the TSA.  Throughout the years, IME’s homeland security expertise customers have included the State Department, FEMA and the Department of Defense.

Garrett has gained and sustained federal clients and credibility in part because she knows first-hand what many customers (also known as victims) of disaster recovery systems go through that government and private industry leaders who have personally experienced a major disaster cannot know.

“My house in New Orleans was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. I had a home in Richmond cut in half by Hurricane Isabelle. I have had to wait two years for insurance adjusters to get a claim settled. As a consultant, I can tell clients have real life experience that outweighs their executive titles,” Garrett said.

Her career, as well as her personal life, gave Garrett the experience she needed to profit from the explosion in homeland security spending after 9/11.

Garrett learned the ins and outs of federal contracting working directly for the Defense Department for a decade starting with college freshman internship and then broadening into helping manage IT and communications projects she was first exposed to as a bean-counter.

The baptism of fire for her as a homeland security consultant came over a year before the World Trade Center and Pentagon air attacks in assisting in a USD 357m program to enable police departments throughout Virginia to communicate with each other.

“It showed me how bargaining with multiple jurisdictions can help them come together and cooperate,” Garrett said.

The consultant explained this helped prepare her for the post 9/11 turf wars where 23 agencies involved in homeland security fought hard to maintain their independence.

“No one wanted to be trumped by anyone else. FEMA wanted to be FEMA. TSA wanted to be TSA,” she said.

Garrett added she also learned from her Virginia experience how to lure private companies to spend their own money to enhance public projects.

She noted Motorola (NYSE:MSI) was persuaded to donate USD 200m in hardware and other infrastructure to solidify its standing an IT consultant for the state—similar to a shaving company giving away the razors to sell the blades.

Garrett has just put her accumulated wisdom in a new book “Homeland Security: A Comprehensive Guide for All.”

Her life pre-and post-9/11 can be read as a guide to see how preparation can prepare a business professional to take advantage of an unexpected next big thing.

By  PK Semler and Ted Knutson in Washington, DC. For more information please call +1202-549-3399 or email: pks@capitolintelgroup.com

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