Innovet, Inc. – St. Louis
Honesty. Integrity. Service.
These are nearly meaningless buzzwords today, but they’re not for Charlie McCarty, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, president and co-founder of Innovet, Inc., a full service electrical, telecom and general construction firm that also offers supply chain solutions for Fortune 500 companies.
Watch a video on Innovet below [2 min.].
The firm was also named the 2015 Small Business Week Eastern Missouri Veteran Small Business of the Year.
Service was a family tradition. Five of McCarty’s uncles served in World War II and two of them died, one in North Africa at the start of the war, the other in Germany just one month before the war ended.
So when his country needed good men in the late 60s, McCarty enlisted in the Marines. He knew there was a very good chance he’d end up in combat in Vietnam, but that was what honorable men did.
It almost killed him.
“I didn’t know what war was like,” he admits now. “No one does until the crap hits the fan and you think, ‘What the hell am I doing here?'”
Here was Hill 881, Khe Sanh, April 1968, one of the ugliest battles of the entire war. Battalions of North Vietnamese troops had dug extensive fortifications and bunkers in the hills around the now-central Vietnamese city, and it was up to the Marines to get them out.
McCarty’s unit assaulted the stronghold and suffered heavy casualties. When a grenade came his way, McCarty didn’t hesitate to protect his fellow Marines. The shrapnel is still with him today.
McCarty returned to his unit just two months later to volunteer for a reconnaissance patrol probing for a new North Vietnamese advance. McCarty again rose to the occasion to defend the patrol, helping get them all back safely and winning a Navy Commendation Medal for Heroism in Combat in the process.
His 13-month tour was up in 1969, and he came home with a Combat Action Ribbon and Presidential Unit Citation for action at Khe Sanh to join his Purple Heart and Navy medal.
“By his courage, bold initiative and steadfast devotion to duty at great personal risk, Corporal McCarty inspired all who observed him and upheld the finest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.”
— Citation from the Secretary of the Navy in presenting the Navy Commendation Medal
It was an America he didn’t recognize. He recalls being greeted with hostility and protestors in San Francisco. He drifted from job to job and was variously a chauffeur, mechanic and even hypnotherapist in the 1970s, settling on electrical work, at which he excelled. He was confident enough in his skills to establish Mac Power in 1997, which installed high, medium and low voltage distribution, power and lighting in commercial, industrial, institutional and residential facilities.
Mac Power was a success. But McCarty knew he could do more.
In 2009, Mac Power and Extel Communications, a warehousing, distribution, telecom engineering, materials and installation firm, combined to found Innovet. The owners’ decades of experience ensured that Innovet began taking on residential, commercial and governmental electrical projects almost immediately, eventually becoming a prime contractor for the departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense and of the Interior; General Service Administration (GSA), Federal Aviation Administration, National Park Service, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army.
The firm today performs work as diverse as installing electrical systems, building a new roadway at Fort Leonard Wood, supplying warehousing and products on demand for Fortune 500 companies, installing a white noise generator at a GSA facility (to prevent eavesdropping) and installing carpet in the Grant’s Farm visitor center. The firm today employs eight people, many of them veterans and enjoys revenues well in the millions.
How has Innovet managed to come up with such a broad range of work?
“Well, we have good people, good contacts and good subcontractors,” says McCarty.
Among these good people are Mille Miller-Hoover, procurement specialist with the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Center (MO PTAC, a BDP program) in St. Louis, which assists businesses obtain federal, state and local government contracts. Innovet also achieved certification as a Small Business Administration 8(a) business, which helps small, disadvantaged businesses compete in the marketplace; a disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE); a Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB); and a service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB). These and other certifications help level the playing field for smaller businesses.
“Up front it (PTAC) helped, maybe not a lot,” McCarty says, because his partners had experience in the day-to-day operations of a business. “But we had no real federal government contracting knowledge or even knew how to approach that market. She (Hoover) and PTAC sent us in some very good directions. Lately it’s working out real well and sales have been increasing, too.”
McCarty and his partners are also committed to hiring veterans. The unemployment rate for the more than 2 million discharged men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan dropped to 8.4 percent in August 2015, according to the Department of Labor, 3 percentage points higher than the national and Missouri average.
“That is simply unacceptable,” McCarty says. “These young men and women need help. We (Vietnam era veterans) didn’t get it. We were treated like second class citizens.”
But now he says, “I look back and think maybe that (civilian hostility toward Vietnam veterans) was a good thing. If we hadn’t been treated that way, I don’t think today’s vets would have the recognition they have. It’s a good lesson the whole country learned.”
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