MO PTAC counselors offer guidance to businesses seeking contracts with government agencies

When considering target markets for their products and services, many business owners often overlook one with nearly limitless potential — local, state and federal government. Agencies and organizations at all three levels of government buy nearly everything you can think of — from food and flowers to construction and heavy equipment. In fact, governments spend more than $800 billion annually on various products and services.

Yet business owners tell us that the overwhelming perception of the government as a morass of red tape and bureaucracy turns them off. It just seems to be more trouble than it’s worth. But the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (MO PTAC) can help navigate what can be a complicated system.

The PTAC program has been available in Missouri since 1993 and is part of MU Extension’s Business Development Program, along with the Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Centers and the Mid-America Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms Center.

MO PTAC offers business owners a variety of services to help with the government contracting process. The most popular is an electronic bid-matching service through which a business is notified any time a government agency seeks to purchase a product or service the company provides. The notification appears in the business owner’s email and saves you the time of searching through FedBizOpps, a registry of federal business opportunities, and other resources offering appropriate solicitations.

If you decide to bid, MO PTAC can help you with the solicitation package. We’ll work with you in preparing your bid, interpreting the regulations and assisting you with the appropriate certifications. Sometimes we can also supply you with bid histories — information on what the government has purchased in the past and at what cost — as well as any other unique specifications on each product or service requested.

Many government agencies look for vendors with specific certifications when selecting a contractor. MO PTAC can assist you with those as well. You may qualify as an 8(a) Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB); as a Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone; a low-income and/or high unemployment area) small business; a service-disabled veteran-owned small business or as a veteran-owned business small business.

At the state level you could be certified as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE); a Women Business Enterprise (WBE); or a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), all of which may give you some advantage in winning a bid.

Although the data are not yet complete, MO PTAC clients have received more than 2,000 contracts valued at greater than $390 million. This results in more than 7,800 jobs created or retained for the current fiscal year.

Among their many areas of specialty, MO PTAC counselors can help you and other prospective government suppliers:

  • Navigate lengthy and complex guidelines concerning such aspects of your business as financial and accounting capability; ability to comply with delivery and performance schedules; integrity and ethics; audit practices; technical skills; facilities standards; and the ability to meet product or service standards.
  • Research government procurement histories to determine past procurement activity by a specific government agency. Such research can help you determine if your pricing is competitive in relation to previous contracts. It can also help you identify volume requirements, previous suppliers and possible teaming opportunities.
  • Prepare bids; understand forms, regulations and specifications; establish a quality assurance program; conform to packing, transportation and delivery requirements; evaluate financial capabilities and accounting system adequacy. A counselor will sit down with you and walk through the entire package, explaining definitions, acronyms (which government agencies are notorious for), regulations, clauses, representations and certifications.
  • Access MO PTAC’s computerized bid matching data bank. You can receive daily notifications of bidding opportunities advertised in FedBizOpps and unadvertised bid opportunities under $25,000 from major defense buying centers. Many state and local government bid requests are also provided. Government bid packages often refer to requirements (specification and standards) that are only cited by reference; PTAC counselors can provide the actual specification and standard documents necessary for bidding on these projects. All federal agencies are required to publicize bidding opportunities. The dollar-level requirements for state and local agencies vary, so it is important to research this on each entity’s purchasing website.
  • Complete registrations and certifications. Register with every governmental agency that could be a potential buyer of your products or services. Many have special certifications or registrations. For example, to do business with virtually every federal government agency you must complete a free annual System for Award Management (SAM – www.sam.gov) registration.

Other resources you may find helpful in government contracting include:

  • The Federal Acquisition Regulation website, which outlines policies for doing business with the government.
  • The Federal Procurement Data System 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 websites as well.
  • The federal government requires completing the System for Award Management (SAM). There is NO fee to register for this site. Entities may register at no cost directly from this page. SAM registration must be renewed annually.

Our role in PTAC is to assist you in obtaining government contracts. We can add your company to our electronic bid matching service at no cost for at least 90 days. If you find the service beneficial and wish to continue, the cost is a minimal $300 per year.

We will work with you individually to ensure the government contracting process is as simple and painless as possible. Our clients often see dramatic increases in sales, which translates into more jobs and prosperity for our state. If you’d like to participate, let us know how we can help by calling the Columbia PTAC at 573-882-9398 or by contacting a MO PTAC specialist near you.

– Bill Stuby, director, central Missouri PTAC