Lovell Government Services, Inc. stands as a testament to the time-honored formula of a visionary leader seeing an opportunity where others see only problems and frustration. Founded by Chris Lovell, a retired Marine and Naval Academy alum, the company is also a great example of how Santa Rosa’s rich military heritage has led to innovation, entrepreneurship, and new jobs for the county.
Chris launched Lovell Governmental Services in 2013, two years after he retired as a Marine Corps supply and logistics officer who once served under then-Colonel Jim Mattis, later US Secretary of Defense.
From Retirement to Reinvention
After working for a time with Amazon, Chris took a different job, this time selling copiers to the Department of Defense (DoD) through Lexmark International. It was in that role he learned that, although the department staff didn’t need more copiers, they certainly did need someone who understood their processes and how help vendors provide other, more critical products.
In particular, the US Veterans Administration (VA) and other federal agencies sought service-disabled, small businesses attuned to their specific purchasing protocols around medical and surgical devices, and pharmaceuticals. With Chris's background and insights, Lovell emerged as the conduit between manufacturers of these products and the federal agencies that needed to acquire them rapidly and without jeopardizing quality and value safeguards that protect both patients and taxpayers.
It was in this space that Chris and his growing team mastered the art and science of specialty distribution. He credits the team at the Santa Rosa County Economic Development Office (SREDO) for standing by his side throughout the process: linking him up with Florida Small Business Development Centers (SBDC); keeping him up to date on grant opportunities; and helping him find workforce resources.
Community and Connection
“Santa Rosa County’s team has been there for anything I needed,” he said. “And they’ve been proactive, actually coming to me and asking where they could help. That’s incredibly valuable when you’re growing as fast as we have.”
Before moving to the area, Chris was well familiar with Northwest Florida, having been stationed in Pensacola twice during a 24-year military career that included time in the enlisted ranks before he earned a hard-to-win spot at the Academy. Another strong connection to the Panhandle is Chris’s wife, Paige, a Pensacola native who supported moving back to her hometown.
“I’m from New Jersey originally but I’ve always loved this area,” Chris said. “There are more nice people per square mile here than anywhere else in America.”
Though not an “overnight success,” Lovell’s persistence helped him grow quickly and steadily. By 2020, the business secured the number-three spot in INC. 5000’s Top 100 fastest growing companies. That same year, it was number one in the Vet 100 and went on to earn spots on those lists in subsequent years.
Onward and Upward
At present, Chris is working to expand his operations with a permanent warehouse facility at Santa Rosa’s Industrial Park South to replace its existing 8,000-square-foot facility. It was a project that began in 2018 but was delayed by the pandemic. If all goes as planned, Lovell Government Services Inc. will break ground at its new home within Industrial Park South in 2024.
Among his dreams for the new facility is to become a US-based manufacturer of generic drugs, many of which are now produced in China. Success will require some level of government approval, but Chris believes this is a critical defense initiative and he has already begun discussion with Congressional leaders about making his dream a reality.
Along with the growth in service scope and physical space, Chris is also rapidly expanding Lovell’s workforce, recently increasing his employee count by a third, from 21 to 28, with plans for nearly triple that number with the Santa Rosa County expansion.
Notably, Chris Lovell has internalized the military ethic of taking care of his team members. With wages that are well above the prevailing local average, his company also provides health, vision, and dental insurance for all his employees.
“It sounds like a cliché, but if you take care of your team, they will take care of each other and your customers,” Chris said. “I see it working every day.”
“Chris Lovell’s story is emblematic of the type of opportunities here in Santa Rosa County and the surrounding area,” said Shannon Ogletree, SREDO’s executive director. “Experienced and talented people who are bringing their skills to bear to improve our national defense posture – and build a better quality of life for our residents.”