When it comes to winning contracts, small businesses need to think strategically

June 19, 2014 by

Ask any small-business chief executive competing in the federal market, and he or she will tell you that finding a niche within the competitive spectrum has become increasingly difficult.

 Some small businesses find themselves competing against larger businesses that have ventured into smaller contracts. With the Small Business Administration’s changes to business size standards in 2012, some small businesses also find themselves competing against much larger — but now small, by definition — businesses for set-asides.

Despite these challenges, the current government contracting environment encourages small-business participation. More than $51 billion in 2013 contract obligations went to small business via set-aside contracts, and although the total dollar figure is declining, the percentage of total obligations is increasing.

Small-business contracting continues to be a priority for contracting offices, which are under increasing scrutiny regarding small-business utilization. These offices have the burden of proof and must justify not using a set-aside for certain requirements. The Obama administration and Congress are also helping shape the path with policies that address small-business competition.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/when-it-comes-to-winning-contracts-small-businesses-need-to-think-strategically/2014/06/06/64bc1b7e-ea6b-11e3-b98c-72cef4a00499_story.html

Course is essential to understanding small business contracting rules

June 18, 2014 by

The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech is repeating its three-day course that delves into the intricacies of the federal government’s Small Business Programs.  The course focuses on the government agencies’ efforts to improve small business participation in both prime contracting and subcontracting.

Because of its relevance and popularity, the course is now scheduled to be held:

  • July 8 – 10, 2014
  • October 7 – 9, 2014

These classes will be held in the world-class Global Learning Center on Georgia Tech’s campus in midtown Atlanta.  Registration details may be found by clicking here.

Academy identifier - gold & black w-white bkgrndKnown as “CON 260B – Small Business Programs,” the course is a Defense Acquisition University (DAU) level 2 contracting course that goes a long way to ensure that those in the acquisition field are more aware of and responsive to small business concerns.  Historically, this class was designed for small business specialists, however The Academy has fashioned this class so that it is applicable to all interested parties – senior executives, managers, contracting officers and contracting staff, small business specialists from all agencies, small business advocates, as well as large and small business concerns.

A review of DAU’s prerequisite course, CON 260A, is included in the Contracting Academy’s course.

Small business participation in federal contracting is a high-profile issue.  For example, a recent Dept. of Defense (DoD) memo (seen here) reiterates how essential small businesses are to our nation’s economic recovery because they produce more jobs, represent a major source of innovative solutions to warfighter needs that help maintain our status as the world’s finest military, and contribute more to gross domestic output.  The Contracting Academy is committed to supporting DoD and other agency directives aimed at achieving higher levels of small business participation in federal contracting.

Uncle Sam's DollarsAll leaders who manage budgets and allocate funds for contracts and contracting officers are collectively responsible for achieving the government’s 23 percent small business goal.  To ensure that this collective responsibility is met, many federal agencies’ senior executives are evaluated and held accountable for small business participation in contracting.  A mandatory performance requirement for supporting this goal includes language that “establishes a command or program climate that is responsive to small business concerns.”

The Academy’s CON 260B is very relevant to the training needs of everyone involved in the process of seeing to it that small businesses participate in government contracting and subcontracting opportunities.  This includes, of course, small businesses themselves — as well as large businesses who are required to establish small business subcontract participation plans.

The Academy offers CON 260B, a 3-day course, as an open enrollment course which virtually ensures seating for all registrants.  Register here for the next CON 260B – Small Business Programs class at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

2.1 CEUs are granted to those successfully completing this course.

GAO rejects protest of GSA’s massive office supply contract

June 13, 2014 by

The Government Accountability Office (GAO)  denied the protests of the GSA’s Office Supplies 3 (OS3) strategic sourcing contract, leaving the protesters dismayed and in shock.

In issuing their decision Monday, GAO’s lawyers found the General Services Administration (GSA) did indeed meet the requirements under the Small Business Jobs Act to evaluate the economic impact of OS3 on small businesses.

GAO’s decision comes despite the fact that the Small Business Administration in April ruled that GSA’s analysis was faulty. SBA found GSA’s analysis didn’t fully consider the negative impact OS3 could have on small firms.

But GAO stated the Small Business Jobs Act doesn’t require agencies to develop a “more detailed” or “quantified cost-benefit analysis” and therefore GSA’s determination met the letter of the law.

“GSA conducted market research and considered alternatives to the procurement approach set forth in the solicitation,” GAO’s Susan Poling, GAO’s general counsel, said in the opinion. “Further, the agency prepared a consolidation analysis which recognized that there was a potential for a reduction in sales for small business contractors who did not receive awards under the OS3 solicitation. The agency concluded, however, that the benefits to be gained through OS3 outweigh the potential negative impact to small business concerns. We find that GSA’s analysis addressed the relevant requirements of the SB Jobs Act, and therefore find no basis to sustain the protest.”

GAO addressed SBA’s ruling in the protest decision. Lawyers say SBA’s procurement center representative’s disagreement with GSA’s analysis wasn’t a basis for GAO to conclude the evaluation was unreasonable.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/index.php?nid=851&sid=3638981

How one Navy contractor navigated Washington’s choppy waters

June 12, 2014 by

Raymond Lopez Jr. spent three decades in the Navy, starting out as a seaman apprentice and retiring with the rank of commander. When Lopez and his wife Carol started Engineering Services Network, a defense services company, in 1997, they built their business on Navy contracts, growing from a small start-up into a $38 million-a-year enterprise. Lopez felt like he had never really retired from the Navy.

But when the clouds of budget cuts gathered in Washington a few years ago, he realized it was time to move out of his comfort zone. The Crystal City company decided to diversify its business — a hot button word in defense contracting circles.

Back in 2004, ESN had worked on a $551,000 Air Force contract. Seven years later, when Lopez was looking to expand outside of Navy work, the connections established on that job helped the company win a crucial five-year, $38 million IT services contract with the Air Force.

The experience cemented Lopez’s decision to enter information technology. More than half of ESN’s business is still generated from providing engineering, operations and technical support services for the Navy, but federal IT jobs — managing tasks in cybersecurity and software development — now account for nearly 30 percent of its revenue. The company has worked with the Air Force, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/how-one-navy-contractor-navigated-washingtons-choppy-waters/2014/05/30/4cc6d0e6-e5c9-11e3-a86b-362fd5443d19_story.html

4 sectors where most federal procurement is happening, and why that’s bad for small businesses

June 10, 2014 by

The vast majority of federal procurement is happening in four sectors — only one of which meets its goals for divvying contract dollars to small businesses.

According to a report from the Office of Advocacy of the Small Business Administration, more than 80 percent of federal procurement was concentrated in these categories in fiscal 2012:

  • Manufacturing, with nearly $200 billion.
  • Professional, scientific and technical services, with about $141 billion.
  • Administration and support, waste management and remediation, with about $43 billion.
  • Construction, with about $35.44 billion.

But within that massive chunk of contract spending, how much is making its way to small business?  For three of the four categories, not enough to meet the federal goal of 23 percent, according to the report.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/blog/fedbiz_daily/2014/06/4-sectors-where-mostfederal-procurement-is.html

JETS annual conference to be held in Savannah June 24-26

June 10, 2014 by

The South Atlantic/South Central/Carolina’s Joint Engineer Training Symposium (JETS)  is holding a three-day event in Savannah on June 24-26, 2014.

The 2014 JETS is different than previous JETS events in that it provides increased opportunities for attendees to meet and network with other attendees, including representatives of large prime contractors and government agencies.  

The southeast  Corps of Engineers’ District Commanders will brief their FY-15 and Beyond contracting programs.  Other federal (FLETC), state (Georgia Department of Transportation), and local agencies (Georgia Ports Authority) will also brief their programs.

Here is the schedule of events:

The detailed agenda, registration, and other information can be found at: http://www.2014jetssasc.org/Agenda.

Construction company sentenced for veteran-owned business fraud

June 9, 2014 by

Max R. Tafoya, 64, the owner of an Albuquerque-area construction company, and his son-in-law, Tyler Cole, 41, of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, were sentenced Thursday on fraud charges related to claims Tafoya’s company was eligible for contracts reserved for businesses owned by service-disabled veterans.

Tafoya was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison to be followed by a year of supervised release, according to federal prosecutors. Cole was sentenced to a 37 months in prison.

Tafoya also was ordered to repay the government $1,350,000. Cole was ruled to be jointly liable for $500,000 of that amount, prosecutors said.

“Today Max Tafoya and Tyler Cole were held accountable for abusing a program that seeks to fulfill our obligation to provide disabled veterans with benefits designed to ease the losses and disadvantages they have incurred as a consequence of disabilities they sustained while serving our country,” said U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez. “This prosecution is part of a nationwide effort to protect service-disabled veterans who own small businesses by tightening controls to prevent fraud and abuse.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/blog/morning-edition/2014/06/construction-company-owner-sentenced-for-fraud.html

Read U.S. Attorney’s statement here: http://www.justice.gov/usao/nm/press-releases/2014/Jun/200%20-%202014-06-05_tafoya_pr.html

How one small word change could mean many more contracting dollars for small businesses

June 3, 2014 by

Sometimes, it’s the most subtle nuances in a phrase that matter most — and for small government contractors, that appears to be the case in the federal procurement rulebook.

The Federal Acquisition Regulation, a long list of government-wide contracting rules established by the heads of several federal agencies, requires all large companies bidding on prime contracts to specify what percentage of the money awarded would flow through to small-business subcontractors.

The rule is meant to ensure that small firms “have the maximum practicable opportunity to participate in performing contracts,” according to the FAR, and to help the government meet its annual goal of awarding 35.9 percent of all subcontracting dollars to small companies. Collectively, federal agencies have missed that mark each of the last five years.

Bob Justis says one odd word on page 1,343 in the rulebook isn’t helping.

“Out of all your planned subcontracting dollars, you’re required to set aside some percentage of that for small businesses,” Justis, head of Justis Consulting, a contracting proposal development firm based in Washington, said in a recent interview. “However, it’s required to be stated as a percentage of your total subcontract dollars — not as a percentage of the total contract dollars.”

It’s a subtle but important distinction, Justis explained, because a large prime contractor can, based on that rule, pledge to commit 40 percent of its subcontracting dollars to small businesses. If the company then handles all the work itself, resulting in a total subcontracting spend of zero, it still met its small-business subcontracting goal.

After all, 40 percent of nothing is nothing.

Keep reading this article at: http://m.washingtonpost.com/business/on-small-business/how-one-small-word-change-could-mean-many-more-contracting-dollars-for-small-businesses/2014/05/22/30b4c0d8-e106-11e3-9743-bb9b59cde7b9_story.html

House bill would raise small business goals and require bundling justifications

May 29, 2014 by

The defense policy bill that cleared the House May 22 is controversial for multiple reasons, most stemming from its rejection of many of the Obama administration’s cost-cutting proposals in troop compensation, military bases and weapons systems.

But deep inside the 700-plus page National Defense Authorization Act are also provisions to open more federal contracting opportunities to small businesses, and some of these measures are troubling to major contractors.

“The contracting amendments offered to the NDAA are common-sense reforms that will provide opportunities for small companies trying to break into the federal marketplace,” said Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., chairman of the House Small Business Committee. “These amendments address many of the barriers created due to the federal procurement system’s bureaucracy and inefficiency.”

The Graves-sought provisions include one to increase the government-wide small business prime contracting goal from 23 percent of contracting dollars to 25 percent and establish a 40 percent subcontracting goal. Another would require that the administration publish contract bundling and consolidation justifications before issuing requests for proposals for awards under the General Services Administration-run Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative.

keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/management/2014/05/house-defense-bill-would-raise-small-business-contracting-goals/85249/

GSA to hold industry day in Atlanta for HUBZone and SDVOSB firms on May 28

May 21, 2014 by

The General Services Administration (GSA) is planning an Industry Day focusing on Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs) and HUBZone certified small businesses with specific NAICS codes.  The program’s planned presentations will outline contracting and potential subcontracting opportunities in GSA’s Public Buildings Service (PBS).  GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) also will be presenting.  This event is being facilitated by GSA’s Office of Small Business Utilization.

The top NAICS codes for Region 4 PBS:

236220   Commercial and Institutional Building Construction
337214   Furniture
53              Real Estate (includes rental & leasing)
541611    Administrative, Management & General Management Consulting Services
561720   Janitorial Services
561210   Operations and Maintenance
GSA Schedule 70

AGENDA

1:00 p.m. – 1:15 p.m. Opening Comments
Chasity Ash, Small Business Technical Advisor, GSA Office of Small Business Utilization
Mildred Quinley, Director, GSA Office of Small Business Utilization (OSBU)

1:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.  GSA, Federal Acquisition Service
1:45 p.m. –  2:15 p.m. Services Branch, GSA Public Buildings Service
2:15 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.  Small Projects Branch, GSA Public Buildings Service
2:45 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.  Capital and Program Support Branch, GSA Public Buildings Service
3:15 p.m. – 4 :00p.m.  Wrap Up, GSA Office of Small Business Utilization

This event is open to small business firms whose primary NAICS codes are listed above.  Pre-registration is required.  Please send attendee names, company name, address, phone numbers, and email addresses to vog.asgnull@zibllams4r.  Limit two attendees per firm.  Please include your NAICS codes, CAGE code, and HUBZone certification number or SDVOSB status in the email.  Please direct all inquiries to Region 4 OSBU at (404) 331-5103 or vog.asgnull@zibllams4r.

If you are unable to attend this even, a conference line  is being set-up.  Be advised that this will be a “Listen Only Call” and all phones will be muted.  If you have any questions during the call, please email them to vog.asgnull@zibllams4r. The Conference Call-In Number is 559-546-1000 and the Access Code is 584979.