The Washington Post

Capital Buzz: A Google for the Archives

Say you want to look up World War I or II casualty records, or mine some White House documents of conversations from the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Or maybe your thing is checking out e-mails from President Bush 43 to his vice president, Dick Cheney?

How about Civil War records or unclassified State Department telegrams? Perhaps you are curious about the flight recorder information from John F. Kennedy Jr.’s fatal crash off Massachusetts.

There are billions of documents in the National Archives and Records Administration, and a Washington area technology firm, aptly named Search Technologies, has a one-year, $2.62 million contract — it could rise to $6.43 million over four years — to make the information searchable for the public.

It’s a big job.

The National Archives oversees everything from the National Archives Building in downtown Washington to its branch in College Park, to 13 presidential libraries.

“We will be re-engineering their search system from the ground up to increase scalability to billions of records,” founder and chief executive Kamran Khan said. His eight-year-old company is based in Herndon and will top $20 million in revenue this year. It employs 125 people between the United States, United Kingdom, Costa Rica and Germany.

Khan said the company now has four key governmental information agencies as clients, including the Government Printing Office and Library of Congress.

Holiday business

Maryland Rep. John K. Delaney (D), an entrepreneur who started several businesses, attracted dozens of high-profile businesspeople to his annual holiday party in Potomac on Dec. 7. This year’s guests included investor Russ Ramsey, Total Wine founder Robert Trone, Washington Kastles owner Mark Ein and wife Sally Stiebel, Washington Capitals co-owner Raul Fernandez and wife Jean-Marie, Carlyle Group buyout bigwig Pete Clare, Steve and Jean Case, Jimmy Reyes of Reyes Holdings, Scott Brickman of the Brickman Group, and Sam Flax of American Capital. The list also included a share of political types, now that Delaney has left the business world for Capitol Hill. Maryland Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler was on hand, as was Virginia Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe and his wife, Dorothy.

Ever the salesman, McAuliffe was stumping for his state across the river.

“Move to Virginia,” he shouted to some Marylanders. “The taxes are lower.”

But do they bill by the hour?

We all knew there was money in law firms.

But there is money designing their interiors, too. One of Falls Church-based Hitt Contracting’s moneymakers is outfitting law firms with the high-end finishes designed to make clients feel like they are in good hands.

Think of Hitt’s law firm practice as a boutique contractor within a larger contractor. It makes up about 10 percent of the revenue at the $1 billion company.

The 77-year-old business, which is family-run, has built more than 5 million square feet of law offices over the years, including conference rooms, law libraries and partner offices.

Hitt has hired Peter Thaler, 50, who has built interiors in New York for a couple of decades for august law firms such as Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

Thaler said attorneys can be penny pinchers when it comes to design.

“It’s not corporate money, it’s partner money,” Thaler said. “At the end of the day, they are following every nickel. They are not cheap and frugal, but they do want to spend money correctly. They spend more time awake in these offices, billing clients and working, than they do their homes.”

Thaler let us in on a little secret: Washington law firms spend more than New York because of the lobbying business, which involves hosting more big businesses, associations and public figures.

New York attorneys tend toward stinginess in that regard.

The Buzz hears:

Applied Predictive Technologies in Ballston studied Black Friday data and determined that after New York City, the District and Baltimore were the two worst performing metropolitan areas for retail sales on the recent post-Thanksgiving weekend. This is the first time APT has indexed the Black Friday weekend traffic. The cold weather may have had something to do with it.

Chuck Rendelman’s FroZenYo opened a franchise in Puerto Rico. The new franchise, in Old San Juan, is owned by Felix Lopez and Cristina Salo, a married couple that also owns a civil engineering and architecture firm called Salo Engineering. San Juan is FroZenYo’s 17th store. The District-based company is also in Boston, with franchise deals in Baltimore, Cincinnati and Beijing.

The “Life According To Sam” documentary on progeria, a disease that causes premature aging, is on the short list for Oscar documentaries, according to John Seng, whose company Spectrum helped sell the film to HBO. The film, which aired in October, will be screened Feb. 25 at the Carnegie Institution of Science.

District-based Spectrum, led by Seng, is a health and life science communications agency that has worked with the Progeria Research Foundation for over 10 years, pro bono.

Reston Limousine President Kristina Bouweiri recently joined 26 women from 12 countries in Lima, Peru, honoring her entrepreneurism. The award came from the 2013 International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge.

Carlyle watch:

Some unexpected affection comes to the Carlyle Group in the City of Brotherly Love. The United Steelworkers Union gave its appreciation award to the Pennsylvania Avenue private equity giant for investing $200 million last year in a Philadelphia refinery that Sunoco was going to shutter. The move saved 850 union jobs.

Thomas Heath is a local business reporter and columnist, writing about entrepreneurs and various companies big and small in the Washington Metropolitan area. Previously, he wrote about the business of sports for The Post’s sports section for most of a decade.



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