Saalex Solutions was recognized last month with the Small Business Administration’s Region 9 Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year award. A division of Saalex Corp., in Camarillo, Saalex Solutions was nominated for the award by the NAVAIR Office of Small Business Program, Department of the Navy at Patuxent River, Md. The office commended Saalex for its “hard work, innovative ideas and dedication” to the community and “driving our nation’s economic growth.” Region 9 serves Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii and Nevada. Saalex Chief Executive Travis Mack said the award was the culmination of the company’s effort with the SBA, which previously had previously given it awards for veteran-owned company of the year and small business contractor of the year. “We think it points to our credibility, we think it points to the service value that we bring to our customers and our overall effectiveness as a company,” Mack said in an interview with the Business Journal. Saalex, through its two divisions, provides engineering, information technology and test range operation management. It has between 150 and 175 employees working in Ventura County in Camarillo and Naval Air Station Point Mugu, and an additional 300 to 350 employees at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, near Ridgecrest. Mack, who served in the Navy and is a disabled veteran, founded Saalex in 1998. The company started as an IT consulting firm until it got the opportunity to support a Pentagon contract. “I would be lying if I said I had this grand vision of becoming a Department of Defense contractor,” Mack said. “You take the path that is given to you and you go from there.” A recent path for the company was in becoming employee owned as of June 28. The status as an employee-owned business gives Saalex a boost as it grows from a small business to a larger one and in being attractive to potential new employees, Mack said. “It places the ownership in the hands of the folks that are doing the heavy lifting on a day-to-day basis,” he added. The company has been in a hiring mode. In April, for instance, the company said it would add 50 new employees in engineering and analyst positions to support two contracts for the U.S. Navy out at China Lake. But Mack said Saalex was having a tough time finding enough people, so it is looking at different ways of hiring and growing its own workforce by collaborating with area colleges. “We are trying to be creative on filling the hiring gap,” he added. More employees are needed as the company makes changes to its operations as the needs of its military customers change. New capabilities that have been added include data analytics and predictive analytics efforts, Mack said. “We are doing a lot of cyber security support as well and really trying to continue to add value to our customers,” he added.