Sandia Labs News Releases

DOE awards Sandia small business program and local veteran

DOE Mentor of the Year and Service-Disabled Veteran Business of the Year

Sandia National Laboratories’ small business team accepts the DOE Mentor of the Year Award for Sandia’s Mentor-Protégé Program. Pictured are Sandia supplier diversity advocates, Marie Simms, left, and Royina Lopez; director of DOE’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, Ron Pierce; and Sandia Small Business Manager Zach Mikelson. (Photo by Tricia Sena) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Department of Energy has once again awarded Sandia National Laboratories for its work helping small businesses. One of those businesses, owned by a disabled veteran, was also awarded for its extraordinary work.

DOE Mentor of the Year

Sandia’s small business Mentor-Protégé Program has been named as DOE Mentor of the year, an award it has received for three consecutive years.

Now in its fifth year, the program has mentored five protégés from around the country. More than 150 volunteer mentors and support personnel help these small and disadvantaged businesses grow, succeed and navigate doing business with Sandia and others in the DOE enterprise.

Royina Lopez, center, accepts her MVP award from the Small Business Administration’s Supply Chain Management center on May 1, 2024. Also pictured, Louis Griego, director of Sandia’s Integrated Supply Chain, left, and Scott Bissen, SCMC senior director. (Photo by Candice Montoya)  Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

Royina Lopez leads the program and has become known as the go-to person for helping small businesses. She was also named this year’s “Small Business Advocate MVP” by the Small Business Administration’s Supply Chain Management center.

This award recognizes outstanding performance by a small business professional who has made a significantly positive impact on the NNSA’s small business program.

Lopez’s outreach efforts have not only helped protégés but have also expanded small business opportunities throughout DOE. Lopez received her award on May 1 and accepted the DOE award, along with other members of her team, on June 4 in Minneapolis.

Click to download a soundbite of Royina Lopez (34 MB).

Service-Disabled Veteran Business of the Year

When Paul Farless joined the Navy after graduating from Los Lunas High School in 1992, he was looking for his future. That future turned out to be building.

Farless became a part of the Navy’s Construction Battalion known as the Seabees, providing advance wartime infrastructure support and construction during Navy and Marine Corp ground force operations.

“Our teams were often deployed to undeveloped areas where we were tasked with everything from humanitarian objectives to building base operations from the ground up,” Farless said. “The Seabees must be ready to respond under any circumstances, so we also had to be combat trained. When something was bombed out, we had to be ready to repair it immediately and defend our teams and others.”

Today, Farless’ job is much less dangerous, but he still supports America’s mission as president and CEO of SDV Construction, which was recently named Service-Disabled Veteran Business of the Year by the Department of Energy.

Paul Farless, president and CEO of SDV Construction accepts the Department of Energy’s Service-Disabled Veteran Business of the Year Award for its outstanding work helping Sandia accomplish its mission. Also pictured, Ron Pierce, director of DOE’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. (Photo by Patricia Brown) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

Working for Sandia

SDV Construction is recognized as a top-performing general contractor at Sandia, earning $80 million in subcontracts. It is also the sole Certified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business providing construction services to Sandia. SDV has traveled as far as Prudo Bay, Alaska to support projects for Sandia, primarily involving facility building, expansion, design and remodeling.

But it’s not just the work itself that has earned SDV Construction recognition. Alongside its efficiency and safety record, the company also embraces new technology, practices and creative solutions to elevate its work.

The company also boasts a substantial number of employees with security clearances, reducing escort costs and project times. They also provide a 4-10 work week, which has proven to be an incentive for their workforce.

Providing a place for veterans

Supporting veterans is the reason founder Kirk McWethy started the company in 2005. He wanted to provide opportunities for veterans transitioning into the civilian world. Farless continues to carry that torch.

“Veterans transitioning out of the service are not always given a lot of opportunities,” Farless said. “Veterans say they are taught how to write a resume and how to look for a job, but they don’t help you find the role you need or the best possible role for the skills you have.”

Fareless says another challenge is the difference between the skills taught to active-duty members and the ones in the civilian world.

“If you have roles that are combat centered, there isn’t necessarily a role like that in the civilian world. You must learn new things,” Farless said.

Paul Farless, right, uses his experience in the military to mentor other veterans and help them start careers in the civilian world through SDV Construction. (Photo courtesy of Paul Farless) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

SDV Construction helps veterans build those needed new skills through trade association sponsored apprenticeship programs and scholarships they fund at the University of New Mexico and Central New Mexico Community College. These scholarships are exclusively reserved for veterans and their families looking to get into the construction industry.

Following his mentor

It’s a situation Farless knows all too well. After leaving active duty, he knew he wanted to continue to build, but needed additional wisdom and guidance. He worked as a journeyman carpenter and worked toward starting his own construction business. Knowing the value of mentorship, he connected with Air Force Veteran Kirk McWethy with whom he had worked on other projects. He ultimately found a home in SDV Construction.

SDV Construction is honored by the DOE during a ceremony in Minneapolis June 4th, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Paul Farless) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

Today Farless leads the company and serves as a mentor to his team, including the veterans on staff. While the primary goal is to help veterans find a place where they can use their skills, SDV Construction also supports veterans in other ways including donating to and volunteering at numerous veteran-centered nonprofits.

Being honored by DOE

DOE honored Farless and SDV Construction for their work in supporting Sandia and its mission.

“It gives my team the recognition they deserve for the work they put in every single day. It’s really the icing on the cake,” Farless said.

But Farless says it’s the work they do every day that brings the most satisfaction: “The entire premise of veterans as a whole is service. We are able to continue our service to our country, and national defense, just as veterans have sworn to do.”

Sandia National Laboratories is a multimission laboratory operated by National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International Inc., for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Sandia Labs has major research and development responsibilities in nuclear deterrence, global security, defense, energy technologies and economic competitiveness, with main facilities in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Livermore, California.

Sandia news media contact: Kim Vallez Quintana,, 505-537-3294