by Elaine Palin
After more than 30 years of working in information technology, financial services, marketing, government, budgeting and consulting, I’ve asked a lot of questions and have gained a lot of knowledge to help small business. And in the time I’ve been with PTAP, I’ve continued helping small business and entrepreneurs through the government contracting process and answering countless questions about the kind of work that PTAP does. The most common question from a small business owner is, “How do I get a government contract?” And the second usually involves money.
Government contracting can be a good way to grow and, in some rare cases, start a business. But learning what it’s all about and doing lots of legwork will help those diligent entrepreneurs move ahead in the contracting world. Below are some of the most common questions PTAP advisors have encountered and their answers
1. How do I get government contracts?
Answer: Contracting with government entities includes the federal government, state governments, cities, counties, schools, prisons, etc. All of these entities have their own requirements for how to get started. See your PTAP advisor for information and assistance.
2. What can I expect to pay for government contracting assistance?
Answer: First, all NM PTAP services are free of charge. Government entities do not charge you for services either. Should you receive calls or emails from organizations saying they can register you in SAM, or get you government contracts BEWARE: these are for-profit entities that will charge you for the same services we provide at no cost. TIP: If you receive an email and the end of the email does not end with xxxx.gov, it is not a government entity.
3. I am registered in the System for Award Management (SAM); where are my contracts?
Answer: SAM is only the database to register on if you wish to do business with the federal government (including some quasi-government entities such as the national laboratories). SAM is only for registration purposes and to make you eligible for contracting. Registration in SAM, however, does not make your business “contract ready” as there are many more steps required.
Just as in private industry, obtaining government contracts requires marketing materials, market research and planning, and making connections. It is rare that a government agency or entity will contact an unknown business and give them a contract. Government contracting takes patience and persistence and PTAP is here to help.
4. What types of government certifications can I get and how do I obtain them?
Answer: There are several certifications available for businesses to help them “get a leg up in contracting.” PTAP can help you with all of them. Certifications include:
a. For New Mexico state government, your business can register as a preferred vendor and obtain a certification called the “In-State Vendor/Veteran Preference.” This is done through the NM Taxation and Revenue Department and can be found at this website: www.tax.newmexico.gov/Businesses/in-state-veteran-preference-certification.aspx. There is no cost to your business and the certificate gives you a 5-10% preference when bidding on any contract in the state.
b. HUBZone certification – This certification stands for Historically Underutilized Business Zone and mostly refers to rural areas and tribal lands. To qualify for this certification, you first need to check with the HUBZone maps to see if your business is located in a designated HUBZone. Second, a minimum of 35% of your employees must reside in a HUBZone (though it does not have to be the same HUBZone as the business).
c. 8(a) Certification – Refers to a business that is both socially and economically disadvantaged. To qualify, your business must be a minimum of 51% owned by one of the following minorities: Black, Hispanic, Asian Pacific Islander and subcontinent Asian American. American Indians, Native Alaskans and Native Hawaiians also qualify. If you do not fall into one of these categories, you will not qualify.
d. Woman-owned and Economically Disadvantages Woman-owned Small Business certification: This is a self-certification requiring a business to be a minimum of 51% woman owned and the woman-owner must be the highest paid employee, have decision making authority and be in charge of daily operations of the business.
e. Veteran and Service-Disabled Veteran Business certification.
5. When can I apply for these certifications?
Answer: Each certification has its own qualification requirements. Please talk with your PTAP consultant for details.