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GST Celebrates 20 Years in Business, Times West Virginian

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By Jessica Borders
For two decades, Global Science & Technology Inc. (GST) has remained focused on innovation, creativity and highly technical work in an employee- friendly environment.  On Saturday, GST officially celebrated 20 years in business with staff members from the past and present during its annual gala in Mitchellville, MD.

The company was formed on March 11, 1991, by Chieh-san Cheng, Larry Roelofs, and Paul Clemens, who previously worked together at Computer Technology Associates in Rockville, MD.

The co-founders started GST with the goal of creating a vast working environment where scientists and engineers could enjoy their jobs. The company opened its first office in Greenbelt, MD., in order to be close to its initial customer, the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. In the beginning, Cheng ran GST by himself, and his partners joined him in July and October of 1991.

Now, the company is approaching 200 employees and expects to reach 250 by the end of the year. In addition to Greenbelt, MD., GST has offices in Fairmont, WV; Arlington, VA; Asheville, NC; and Boulder, CO.  Cheng serves as the President of GST, and Roelofs remains active in the company as vice president of technology. Clemens retired about five years ago.  Cheng said GST's services cover a wide range of areas, including space science, earth science, information technology, and engineering disciplines.

The company partners with space scientists at NASA to study, design and build instruments to perform on a spacecraft or aircraft. It also works with NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other agencies to develop instruments for earth science applications.  In the realm of information technology, GST provides support in the design of large databases for NASA, NOAA, the Department of Defense and the state of West Virginia. In the engineering disciplines, the company has been supporting NASA's visualization lab for more than 10 years.

GST's West Virginia connection was established in 2005 through the acquisition of TMC Technologies Inc. in Fairmont. The West Virginia division includes three locations in Fairmont, with the main office on Green River Drive in the Industrial Park, with about 60 employees, said Norm Gundersen, Vice President of the Division.  In addition to winning contracts the traditional way, GST wanted to explore the possibility of expanding the business base by merging with another firm, Cheng explained. GST was already very strong in science and engineering and felt that it needed to penetrate the information technology industry, which led to the purchase of TMC Technologies.

Gundersen, who has been with GST for 13 years, said the company was very NASA-driven until the purchase of TMC Technologies, which opened the door to contracting opportunities with NOAA and led to diversification. Most of the work for NOAA's CLASS contract, which stands for Comprehensive Large Array-data Stewardship System, is done in West Virginia.

GST's growth strategy is a little different from other companies, Cheng said. The team concentrates on the work it likes to do and is very selective in choosing projects. This concept has allowed GST to grow in size and also expand to areas of work that require highly skilled science and engineering staff.

2010 was a great year for the company in terms of winning contracts. GST was awarded 10 contracts: four from NOAA, three from NASA, two from the state of West Virginia, and one from the Federal Highway Administration. These contracts, all in science and technology, have given GST the foundation to go to the next level and continue focusing on the work it enjoys, Cheng said.

"This was the most successful year in the history of GST," Gundersen said.

He said GST plans to try to grow its partnerships with NASA and NOAA — its two best customers — and also expand outside of those agencies.

"Like any company ... we are continually trying to grow," Gundersen said.

GST has always taken pride in its unique ability to make the connection between the science world and the computer science world, he said.

Gundersen attributed GST's success over the years to leaders in the company who remained focused on providing top-notch customer relations. Also, the company has a reputation for treating its staff well.

"I've been very lucky to be able to lead this wonderful company for the last 20 years," Cheng said. "We do have a very interesting culture, employee friendly environment, and people feel very comfortable to talk and exchange ideas."

Cheng always has an open door policy and makes himself available to everyone in the company. He said GST has an extremely low turnover rate in employees.

"We emphasize innovation and creativity and highly technical work," he said. "I think a lot of people really like to be a part of this. We're very open, transparent."

Over the past 20 years, GST has maintained its culture and gradually built a strong infrastructure, Cheng said.

"I'm just really thankful for the people who have been working with me closely for many years," he said. "Dedication is hard to find, but it's happened at GST."

E-mail Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com.

Sunday, March 13, 2011