Government Contracting 101: How Your Business Can Contract with the Federal Government

Updated: Mar 29

Watch the video below or scroll down to read the recap

The Bluefield WV Economic Development Authority (BEDA) hosts workshops to meet the needs of our local and regional business owners. This class taught by Mary Hedrick, a Regional Contracting Assistance Center Procurement Counselor, gives business owners a look at how they could contract with the federal government and the process to do so.


BEDA Executive Director Jim Spencer opens the workshop up with a welcome to attendees and begins the dialogue with a comment that no one spends more money than the federal government, buying goods and services that we may not think about, such as eggs. This creates opportunities for small businesses in West Virginia to take advantage of.

 

Some key take-aways from Mary’s Presentation:


Why should the Federal Government be your customer?

  • U.S. Government is the world’s largest buyer of goods and services

  • Government purchases amount to over $500 billion per year

  • The government’s goal is to award small businesses 23% of their contracts

The Federal Government spending hit an all-time high in the fiscal year 2020, spending $681 billion on products or services total. Small businesses were awarded $144 billion of that total for the fiscal year 2020.


Top 5 Awarding Agencies in 2020:

  • Department of Energy, Department of Justice, Department of Veteran Affairs, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense

Top 5 Business Types Awarded in 2020:

  • Computer Systems Design, Research & Development, Engineering Services, Other Computer-related Services, Commercial & Institutional

Myth vs. Realities of Contracting with the Federal Government:

  1. Myth: Doing business with the government is too complicated and it takes forever to get paid.

  2. Reality: The government uses many commercial and business-friendly practices, such as buying off the shelf, paying with a credit card, or paying within 30 days of invoicing.

  3. Note: You must put time into identifying agencies and buyers, they don’t just come to you. You also must be prepared to do the work of learning and following the procurement process and rules as well as ensure your business can financially support the costs involved with a federal contract – you are legally held responsible once you sign the contract.

What type of company is a good fit for contracting with the Federal Government?

  • Motivated

  • Good at paperwork, details, and follow up

  • Your product or service is marketable outside of the local area or Continental U.S.

  • Management is willing to prioritize and commit to the marketing efforts (the RCAC can help with marketing materials for your business if needed)

  • Willingness to research and understand the unique mission and objective of the government customer

 

Steps to Government Contracting:


1. Determine Your Capabilities

  • What type of business are you? Where would you best fit in the government marketplace? (manufacturing, service, retailer, construction, distribution, etc.?)

  • Check for Certifications - The government also has “set-aside” goals to award contracts to various socio-economic groups such as Women-Owned Small Businesses, 8(a) Businesses, HUBZone Small Businesses, Veteran-Owned Small Businesses, and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses. To learn more about these programs, visit Contracting assistance programs (sba.gov) To find out if your business resides in a HUBZone qualifying area, visit HUBZone Map (sba.gov).

  • Determine your Size Standards - Determining if your business meets the SBA small business size standards is key to moving forward with contracting with the government. Identify the important industry, product, and service codes that procurement officials use to search for specific businesses (North American Industry Classification Codes (NAICS), Standard Industrial Classification Codes, Product Service Codes, Federal Supply Codes) Visit Table of size standards (sba.gov) for more information.

  • Have a Capabilities Statement ready – Sometimes the government will ask for this document, essentially, it’s your business’s resume. You should include your identifying codes, past performance, letters of reference, points of contact from previous projects, relevant business experience, organizational chart, clear descriptions of capabilities, your business’s strengths, things that differentiate your company from the competition, and other relevant information.


2. Get Registered

  • Get a Data Universal Numbers System Number (DUNS) Number – This is FREE to obtain. Check to see if your company is already listed, if so, check for errors then work with Duns & Bradstreet to correct them if needed. If not listed, request a free number. Request or check for your number at Get a D-U-N-S Number - Establish Your Business - D&B (dnb.com) Note: DUNS numbers will no longer be issued starting April 4, 2022. Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) will replace DUNS. You can find updates on this transition at Unique Entity Identifier Update | GSA.

  • Register with SAM – You must register with the System for Award Management (SAM.gov, the official website of the U.S. Government) to do business with the federal government. There is no cost to register. Note: State contracting does not require you to register with SAM.

(a) With SAM, one user ID and password will provide access to all the capabilities (SAM.gov and Login.gov)

(b) SAM integrates registration with representations and certifications to create a simplified process. For example, SAM groups your basic data such as name, address, type of organization, and financial information into a “Core Data” group.

(c) Searching for Bid Leads on SAM.gov – Click "Contract Opportunities" on the homepage, hit "advanced search", in the right-hand side "Relevance" drop-down tool select “updated date”, then in the left-hand side input keywords to search for opportunities such as location, business type, product type, and more. When you click on an opportunity link, it will pull up its specific solicitation page with general information about the contract as well as helpful links concerning that contract like information on how to apply and what to include.

(d) Note: The government is not required to post contracts under $25k on SAM.gov, in order to track those opportunities, you may need to do some market research. You can get more information on how to do this by contacting Mary and the RCAC team. You can also locate these smaller opportunities by searching for the Purchasing Agent or Contracting Officer of agencies or organizations you are interested in contracting with.

  • Register with Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) - DSBS is a supplemental database that quickly allows agencies to identify small business vendors. This is essentially a good marketing tool that is free and can easily get your business discovered by contractors. You will want to keep the information on here up to date.


3. Research the Opportunities

  • You can search on SAM.gov (as stated previously) - To get the best search results on SAM.gov, be sure to use various keywords and filters such as place of performance, set-aside type, notice type, status, and more.

  • WVOASIS: Procurement Opportunities for WV – Use the WV Self-Service Portal (VSS) to also search for opportunities. Similar to SAM.gov, you can view open solicitations and search keywords or place different filters to see additional contracting opportunities in WV. To visit this site, visit wvOASIS.gov. Note: To electronically submit bids through WVOASIS, there is a $135 fee per year.

  • What Federal Agencies are in or near Bluefield, WV that might contract? Army Core of Engineers, USDA, Forestry Service, State or Federal Parks, Local municipalities, Court Houses, Department of Defense or Justice, Federal Prisons, Universities

4. Determine Your Fit

  • Determine your geographical scope: Are you aiming for national, regional, or local projects? (National: Manufacturers, Distributors, Some Service | Local: Some Service, Construction, Retailers).

  • Where do you fit in the marketing channel? Prime Contractor: Responsible for the entire project. Subcontractors: Employed by Prime to do parts of the project. Teaming: Working with one or more businesses to perform the contract. Joint Venture: Two or more parties, usually businesses, form a partnership to share markets, intellectual property, assets, knowledge, and profits.

  • Note: The Small Business Administration's (SBA) Subcontracting Network System (SUB-Net) bridges the gap between businesses seeking small business subcontractors. Visit this site at SBA SubNet.

5. Continuous Education

Services the RCAC Offers

  • RCAC Procurement counselors provide advice and assistance in areas specific to your company’s government contracting needs such as regulations, reporting requirements, contract bidding and performance, and payment and audit issues.

  • RCAC offers one-on-one counseling, providing companies with the competitive edge the global marketplace demands.

  • RCAC also assists with registrations, certifications, and verifications as well as hosts workshops and webinars to assist clients.

  • RCAC also offers a bid-match service, tailored to your specific NAICS codes and keywords. Clients will receive a daily email including all bids associated with NAICS, keywords, and other selected criteria.

  • Note: the RCAC only assists businesses located within West Virginia. If you are not located in West Virginia, Mary and her team can point you to the right Procurement Technical Assistance Center in your state.

 

Let's Get in Touch!


Mary Hedrick, Procurement Counselor

Regional Contracting Assistance Center, Inc. & Procurement Technical Assistance Center | mhedrick@rcacwv.com | (304) 384-5179


Harold Patterson, Certified Business Coach

WV Small Business Development Center | harold.d.patterson@wv.gov | (304) 767-0532


Jim Spencer, Executive Director Bluefield WV Economic Development Authority | jspencer@bluewv.org | (304) 902-2332 x 1



Bluefield WV Economic Development Authority Logo (The words "My Bluefield" underneath an outline of the Bluefield, West Virginia Skyline)


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