By Gina Blitstein
Operating a small business these days is a challenge, to say the least. It seems the big fish are more and more frequently swallowing up the little guys, providing goods and services to their market cheaper and more efficiently. How are small businesses to survive in such an unfriendly economic climate?
The government is aware, thankfully, that an economy isn’t only comprised of giant retailers. It doesn’t want to see small business, which is the backbone of our economy, go under, so it is offering incentives of its own to encourage small business to pursue government contracting opportunities. As far as a client, small businesses couldn’t do better than the government, which is the largest purchaser of goods and services around, spending $425 billion per year, with 23% of that substantial budget earmarked for contracts with small business.
As a way to stimulate our economy, the government has taken action on behalf of small business. To quote the SBA website verbatim, “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) was signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009. It is an unprecedented effort to jumpstart our economy, create or save millions of jobs, and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so our country can thrive in the 21st century.”
The SBA website provides a myriad of resources for those interested in taking advantage of these opportunities to contract with the government. Those resources include an online course, entitled, Recovery Act Opportunities: How to Win Federal Contracts, a slew of e-newsletters on a wide variety of topics representing every region of the U.S., and SBA Direct Resource Packets.
According to their website, the SBA Direct Resource Packets provide small businesses direct access to capital and banks that are making loans. Additionally, they provide resources, including counseling, that can help them meet the challenges of owning and operating a small business. In order to more quickly connect small businesses with these resources, SBA has prepared SBA Direct Resource Packets for every region of the country with up-to-date contact information for SBA field offices, lenders making SBA loans, and counseling services, including:
- District Staff
- Local Score Chapter Offices
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)
- Women’s Business Centers (WBCs)
- Small Business Investment Companies (SBICs)
- U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEACs)
- Veteran’s Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs)
- Surety Bond Guarantee Program
- Federal Procurement Opportunities:
- Procurement & Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs)
- PRIME Award Grantees
- State Lenders
- Microloan Program Intermediary Lenders
- Certified Development Companies (CDCs)
Not only is the government doing good for small business - small business is proving good for the government. According to Lourdes Martin-Rosa, American Express OPEN Advisor on Government Contracting, government agencies are realizing huge savings from contracting with small businesses. For instance, Lourdes reports, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) achieved a savings of $43 million from the previous year’s budget through its set-aside small business program. Similarly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) saved $5.2 million – a 65% reduction of what it would have cost to acquire these services on a cost-reimbursement basis – when it awarded its Superfund Cleanup contract to a service-disabled veteran-owned small business.
Lourdes explains that because of the Obama Administration’s Small Business Task Force, more and more agencies are beginning to realize the potential savings from procuring with small businesses. In 2010, the federal government awarded $98 billion in contracts to small businesses.
Lourdes discusses the steps small businesses need to take to get a leg up on government contracting opportunities. She offers the following shortcuts to start:
- Get your business certified. Visit www.sba.gov to determine if your business qualifies for various Small Business Certifications and set aside contracting programs, including Small Business, the 8(a), Women-Owned, Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned, and HUBZone Small Business.
- Get your business noticed. Register in the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) national database and add your business to the Dynamic Small Business Search.
- Know the agency you are targeting. Before responding to any government solicitation, check out the history of the agency’s product/service awards at www.fpds.gov.
- Consider teaming to gain experience. Teaming up with an experienced contractor is an effective way to gain past performance. Visit www.teamingusa.com to find potential partners.
Being a small firm is not a handicap - especially when the government recognizes your value to the overall economy and takes steps to ensure business opportunities for you. When you can procure profitable contracts for your business while stimulating the economy, that’s a win-win!
What does your small business have to offer the government? What does the government have to offer your small business?
Edited: 10/01/2011 at 09:08 PM by Gina