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Op-Ed: Government contracting 101: 5 winning tips

Author Jorge Silva-Puras is SBA regional administrator, overseeing agency operations in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Can you imagine your small business providing that key product or service to the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency or the Veterans Administration?

All of this can be a reality!  The federal government spends more than $500 billion a year in contracts, making it the largest purchaser of goods in the world. Small businesses throughout the country can and should take advantage of contracting opportunities so that they can grow, innovate and create jobs!  At SBA we have a variety of resources to assist small firms in navigating government contracting.

San Germán business owner Oscar Quiles, founder and president of Pentaq Manufacturing Corporation, took advantage of our government contracting programs. He began his path with SBA financial assistance and counseling services, later becoming certified under the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development program. These avenues opened the door to several government contracting opportunities. To date, the company employs over 160 people and Oscar has secured contracts with the Department of Defense and the U.S. Coast Guard valued at more than $17 million.

We want to help you also navigate government contracting like Oscar Quiles. Here are five winning tips:

Get a counselor.You can find counselors at Puerto Rico Small Business and Technology Development Centers throughout the island, the Women’s Business Institute at the University of the Sacred Heart, SCORE, and the Puerto Rico Federal Contracting Center – a Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC).  These professionals are standing by to help you get in the contracting game, and most of their services are free. Visit www.SBA.gov/direct.

Get certified. A number of certification programs can increase your chances of winning a contract. SBA’s 8(a) program provides counseling, mentoring and access to set-aside and sole-source contracts. Service-disabled veteran-owned businesses and small companies in Historically Underutilized Businesses Zones (HUBZones) are also eligible for set-asides.  SBA recently launched the Women’s Federal Contract Program which opens up contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses in more than 300 industries where they are underrepresented. Find out more at www.SBA.gov.

Be targeted. The most successful contractors have a specific product or service that federal agencies need. Decide what you have to offer and target your efforts at the federal agencies that need it most.

Market your business. Get your foot in the door by attending matchmaking events with agency contracting officers, or by reaching out to agencies’ Offices of Small and Disadvantage Business Utilization (OSDBUs). Visit www.osdbu.gov to find out more.

Identify contracting opportunities. Be proactive! Once you’ve determined the agencies most likely to buy from you, you need to find contracts to bid on. Stay in close contact with the agency’s OSDBU and contracting officers you have met, and visit the Federal Business Opportunities Web site (www.fbo.gov), which has a list of all contracts available for bid. Also, look for new tools like green.sba.gov, an online portal that houses all of the clean-energy small-business opportunities across the federal government.

Winning a government contract is hard work, but small business owners are not in it alone. Contact us today to learn how government contracting can benefit your small business.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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