“My dad is my hero,” says Mike Melo, CEO and president of ITA International, of his Air Force fighter pilot father who served in Korea and Vietnam.
California native Melo grew up with four brothers and sisters. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in forestry from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VT). His love of being on the water led him to a 23-year career in the United States Navy until his 2002 retirement. His parents were his most inspirational influences.
Melo’s first company performed mobile oil changes on boats. It failed miserably. A few years later, he opened a business based on his naval expertise: analysis in force protection and security work. At the time, he ran Old Dominion University’s Troops to Teachers program. He and wife, Kathy, began ITA International in 2005 and two years later, won their first contract.
When Melo was 12, his dad gave him this Teddy Roosevelt quote:
The prevailing philosophy of ITA (In the Arena) is “Serving in the Arena.” ITS operational group provides services in planning, analysis and training, with additional expertise in marine engineering, supporting the Coast Guard and Navy.
With ITA’s headquarters at Tech Center, this government contractor, along with the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security, employs 385 people. Its contract offices are spread throughout 20 states and Germany, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Its largest footprint is in Hampton Roads (Norfolk Naval Base, Langley Air Force Base, Coast Guard in Portsmouth and the Navy in Little Creek), the Washington, DC/Baltimore area, Panama City/Destin and San Diego.
“We established ITA Data Analytics Center (ITADAC) to support ITA International,” Melo says of what he considers the company’s future. “We also opened this area of focus to commercial clients.”
Melo is focused on taking complex world issues and using data to solve them. ITA is building that capability. It invested in 12 veterans and two others who took courses through VT Hampton Roads Center to become data scientists.
Melo contends that marketers, financial institutions and online entities, such as Google and Amazon, use accumulated data to great advantage. He believes data analytics are not widely used to look at complex issues like environmental security, which proactively helps manage the environment and natural resources.
ITA has been working with VT College of Natural Resource and Environment on this effort. It plans to start a school of Environmental Security in Washington, DC.
“We co-hosted a Washington, DC-based forum on environmental security with ITA in April,” says Paul Winistorfer, dean of VT’s College of Natural Resources and Environment. “Working hand-in-hand with ITA gives us a unique perspective on solving problems in the real world and continues to bring into focus the importance of the environment and natural resources’ role in promoting stable, secure and sustainable societies and
human ecosystems around the world.”
Kathy is chief governance officer and responsible for ITA’s ISO systems.
“She’s meticulous and very good at making sure the system works,” Melo says.
Katelyn Byrd, Melo’s oldest daughter, is chief people officer. “Katelyn is responsible for everything that touches a person,” Melo says of her human resources, facilities and IT management.
“People want to stay with the company because they believe in what Kathy and I put together,” he says.
The Melos’ youngest daughter, Meredith, works in development at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“When I first came across ITA, the business existed to make a difference in the lives of our military, the defense of our country and the world,” says Mike Carlson, ITA’s chief contracts officer. “As our capabilities as a company have grown, so has the sense of being a contributor to the greater good.”
The Melos strive to maintain a personal relationship with each employee. Annually, they visit every site and have a Christmas party with employees there.
Among his community involvement, Melo serves on the board of the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and the Board of VT’s College of Natural Resources. He believes hard work and persistence are the keys to ITA’s success.
ITA received Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s Fantastic 50 award multiple times as well as being on Inc. 5000’s list of fastest growing companies nationwide seven times.
The Melos concentrate their charitable work on veterans and education. They love VT football and boating.
“I totally enjoy working in the company,” Kathy says. “People are excited and seem to enjoy the atmosphere created here at our Tech Center location. I used to teach and it is an equally exhilarating feeling when I come to work.” “Working with our daughter is really special.”
“I tell my girls that the number one key to success in life is hard work and persistence,” Mike says. “No one’s going to outwork me.”
TO THE POINT:
ITA International, LLCAddress: Building One @ Tech Center,
630 Hofstadter Rd., Ste. 202, Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Mike Melo