The government spends billions of dollars each year purchasing products and services, some of which your company may be able to provide. However, doing business with the government can be a cumbersome process.
It is important to become familiar with the different policies and procedures with which vendors are expected to comply when selling to the government. The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) is the compilation of federal contracting principles and practices. One of the many Web sites with information about the FAR is http:/farsite.hill.af.mil. State and local government agencies typically post their purchasing policies and practices on their own Web sites.
The Federal Procurement Data Center at https://www.fpds.gov reports statistics on procurement for more than 70 federal agencies. Some federal, state and local government agencies, military installations and prime contractors publish procurement directories and procurement forecasts on their Web sites.
All federal agencies are required to publicize bidding opportunities on http://www.fedbizopps.gov; when the purchase is expected to exceed $25,000, so anyone with Internet access can find out about these opportunities. The dollar-level requirements for state and local agencies vary, so it is important to research this on each entity's purchasing Web site.
The federal government requires the completion of two mandatory registrations: the Central Contractor's Registration (CCR) at http://www.ccr.gov and the Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA) at https://orca.bpn.gov. Both CCR and ORCA are free registrations and must be renewed annually.
Many state and local agencies require companies to become registered directly with them to be eligible vendors for contracting. This information typically can be found on the individual agency Web sites.
The federal government has socio-economic programs offering certifications for small businesses that could provide contract-bidding preferences. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) handles two certifications for federal government procurement programs: 8(a) Business Development and HUBZone. While completing the above-mentioned ORCA registration for federal contracting, businesses can self-certify that they are any of the following: small business, small disadvantaged business, women-owned business, veteran-owned business and service-disabled veteran-owned business.
On the state and local level, each government entity may offer its own certification program. Typically, state and local certifications are Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), Women Business Enterprise (WBE) and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE). The certification programs offered also will be found on each government entity's Web site.
Many government agencies have in-house resources to provide contracting assistance. The General Services Administration's Office of Business Support assists businesses in determining who to market their products and services to in the federal government, and how they can get connected. The SBA provides oversight of the certification programs as well as business matchmaking programs.
The Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) are non-profit organizations created by Congress and partially funded by the Department of Defense to expand the supplier base and increase competition among government contractors, thus reducing the cost of maintaining a strong national security, as well as generating employment and enhancing the economy.
The PTACs' role is to work with businesses to help them obtain and perform federal, state and local government contracts by educating the companies on the processes necessary for securing government contracts and by connecting businesses with government agencies seeking competitively priced products and services.
For a list of PTAC service centers in Missouri, visit www.missouribusiness.net/ptac/centers.asp. MO PTAC procurement specialists can set your business up for computerized bid matching, assist in preparing bids, provide access to procurement histories, help with various government registrations, determine if your business is eligible for special government certifications and provide one-to-one counseling in areas such as sales, finance, marketing and other general business practices.
MO PTAC provides its services free of charge the first three months. This gives the opportunity for clients to see if the services are beneficial to their operation. After the first three months, the charge is $300 per year to help recover the cost of the bid-matching services.
If you are located in Kansas, please contact the Heartland PTAC.
This MO PTAC FAQ was written by Donna Leonard, program director for the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Center-Kansas City for the Kansas City Small Business Monthly and is used with their permission.