By Aisling Swift
Army veteran Ed Dort saw a problem in the utility marketplace — the government and utilities sectors found it difficult to find quality personnel —and he knew a skilled workforce that could solve it.
“You name every job in the military and it can probably transfer to utilities,” Dort, president and founder of Directional Command LLC, said as he listed off distribution, delivery, management, GPS and more.
The energy industry is expected to lose a large share of its work force when millions of experienced workers — baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 — are eligible for retirement within the next five to 10 years.
The U.S. Department of Labor predicts 50 percent of the nation’s utility workforce will retire.
Replacing that technical and institutional know-how while providing jobs for skilled military veterans led Dort to create Directional Command LLC in January 2017 after graduating from Veterans Florida’s Veteran Entrepreneurship Program at Florida Gulf Coast University’s Institute for Entrepreneurship. The course challenges veterans to think of a problem and create a business to solve it.
“The utility and government asset management market is growing,” said Dort, who joined The Naples Accelerator in August 2016. “I can give veterans a new career path after they come out of the military. There’s a tremendous shortage of people in the utility space and 50 percent will be retiring by 2020.”
Add to that, the national veteran jobless rate totaled 3.8 percent nationwide in December, down from 4.1 percent a year earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In Florida, it totaled 3.8 percent in November, down from 4.8 percent a year earlier.
“They can go back to college on the GI Bill, but quite frankly, not all are college material,” Dort said of his desire to employ jobless veterans. “The idea is that we work for something greater than ourselves, as we did when we served our country.
Dort’s background in technology and business leadership comes from more than 25 years in the private sector, where he did business with the government, utilities and the communications fields. When he started Directional Command LLC, he was a regional sales manager for an international technology company that designs and manufactures measurement solutions.
“Ed’s a veteran and he’s mature. He’s not a twenty-something entrepreneur,” said Jace Kentner, director of the Collier County Office of Business & Economic Development, a Naples Accelerator partner. “He represents the type of entrepreneur we have in Collier County.”
“He did his homework, he worked hard and he’s successful — and we want to see many more Ed Dorts,” Kentner added.
Directional Command provides advanced technology and software as a service (SaaS) to the electric utility industry by helping utilities and contractors that own and manage utility poles. Its SaaS products help utilities manage all assets and devices attached to the poles, provide inventory management, conduct field audits and more. Its services meet or exceed NESC requirements.
To boost his chances of winning government contracts, Dort completed the Service Disabled Veteran Certification Program.
“Veteran-owned businesses have a higher success rate than other startups, which reflects our training, discipline and diverse skillsets,” Dort said. “You have to have a lot of tenacity to be in business for yourself – and you learn that in the military.”
The company successfully launched a telematics GPS platform that offers connected cameras and handles marine, asset and personal tracking, hours of service, fleet management and equipment monitoring.
So far, Directional Command has been awarded numerous federal and civilian contracts to provide advanced telematics for utility asset management. It has contracts in about 30 states and the Caribbean and is looking for veterans to fill the jobs.
Dort’s first year in business focused on building a resume of initial clients that benefited from his services. He expects 2018 to be a year of substantial growth due to Directional Command’s new telematics platform and utility asset management services.
Referring to a military mantra, Dort said, “Directional Command prides itself in ‘Hunting the Good Stuff’ — both in work and with people.”