Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) set to expire CAGE codes
Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) set to expire CAGE codes
When a prime contractor asked Margaret Nava and her husband, Tony Nava, owners of NFI, Inc., if they could seal an abandoned mine while on a job, their answer was yes. It wasn’t long after that the Albuquerque based-firm began to create a business out of closing abandoned mines throughout the Southwest.
According to NFI, there are about 1,500 abandoned mines in New Mexico and more than a half million in the United States. NFI has closed more than 330 mines in the region, including in spots at Lake Mead, Nevada; Coronado National Monument in Arizona; Paris Mill in Colorado; Marble Canyon in Death Valley in California; and along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. All the closures meet Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal and state requirements. They also contain special bat gates to allow the animals to fly freely into their habitat but closes off the entrance to humans or large animals so that it doesn’t pose a risk.
So many abandoned mines remain on public lands after the Gold Rush and extensive mining for metals to support World War II. Some of the large holes are faux mines created by swindlers who wanted to sell land for a premium.
Since 2005, NFI, which started as a general contracting company, began performing subcontract services and now does work for the EPA, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service. The company hires students who have earned or are earning a welding certificate from the Job Corps, a free education and training program that helps young people, many who are at-risk, learn a career, earn a high school diploma or GED.
In 2011, the company received its 8(a) certification and has been certified as an Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business with PTAP’s help. Margaret Nava also had some help from a mentor of sorts, another seasoned government contractor a PTAP advisor recommended to her who helped her navigate the contracting world with a lot of positive, helpful feedback.
While NFI has had contracting success, Margaret Nava said she’s been most grateful to give back through her company by hiring Job Corps students.
“It’s important to have a company that can work with them and the patience to work with them,” she said. “We want them to make good wages and feed their families—that’s one of the things I’m most proud of.”
When the residential construction business began to take a dive as the U.S. economy started to tumble in 2008, Lawrence and Laura Fierro needed to find something else to keep their business, Fierro Enterprises, LLC, going strong.
The Fierros, custom homebuilders for residential customers in Las Cruces, started looking into government contracts with the help of Senior PTAP Advisor Elke Mosholder after meeting her at an event.
One of the Fierros’ first contracting jobs was with the U.S. Army, replacing a septic tank in the wilderness near Cloudcroft. Other jobs include adding safety doors and air conditioning to the guard shacks for Las Cruces Public Schools. The company has also worked for New Mexico State University remodeling the Corbett Center Student Union, and the Center for Countermeasures at the White Sands Missile Range installing the heating, venting and cooling systems, among other projects.
Laura Fierro said for the past few years she and her husband have made the hour-long drive to Alamogordo to see Elke for help on bids, making sure that all the information is correct, and guidance on what questions to ask and which contracting officer to follow up with.
“When you first start contracting, understanding how the building process works to the government specifications and the requirements is a learning curve. It’s also very complex as far as the paperwork,” Laura Fierro said. “When you get that first contract there is no one to teach you how to do it and you have to learn how to do it on your own. But that’s where PTAP comes in very handy.”
In 2011, the company obtained 8(a) status and since has built structures and had other projects, including plumbing, road and flood control work at White Sands.
Although it was challenging in the beginning, the Fierros have enjoyed the federal work.
“The best part has been the opportunity to branch out into a different market that we didn’t even know existed,” Laura Fierro said. “We were able to put our name out there in a different setting of construction. And it’s been steady—it’s been positive growth for the company to learn a different division of the industry. It’s been good.”
The Fierros offer this advice to small business owners who are interested in federal contracting: “Prepare and get well organized. You have to follow the government requirements to the T. You need to have very good communication skills, and be very conscientious about timelines,” said Laura Fierro. “That’s how you will succeed.”
For the past seven years, Robert and Becky Lee of Alamogordo have been using a specialized procedure to clean grout, tile and carpet for both commercial and residential customers in Southern New Mexico.
“Our first customer was White Sands. I just drove in and talked to them. They laughed at me when I told them what I could do,” said Robert Lee describing how his machine, which uses heat and just the right amount of water pressure can remove gum and other tough substances without ruining concrete or other hard surfaces. It also cleans carpets. “They said, ‘OK, show us,’ and I did it. We’ve been doing it about twice a year ever since. They still haven’t found anyone who can do what we can do.”
Double Eagle Restoration, LLC, was Robert Lee’s fifth attempt at building a business after the economy began to tank and his employer at the time began cutting back operations. He started to look for something that could supplement his income. After hearing about a specialized cleaning machine and training to use it from a friend, Robert Lee went to Phoenix to learn more about it. He then leased the equipment when he created his own business and eventually quit his job to grow his company. He now builds the equipment himself through his second business, Gum-B-Gone.
Double Eagle Restoration has contracts with Wal-Mart and Holloman Air Force Base. Robert Lee said PTAP and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) both provided support in both starting and growing his companies from business planning to employee procedures and management. Robert Lee said Senior PTAP Advisor Elke Mosholder has been helpful with recommendations and keeping his business in the loop when bids came out.
For businesses interested in government contracting, Robert Lee says in the beginning it helps to do a few jobs outside your scope of work or do it at cost “just to get your name out there,” recalling a subcontract with one of the largest government contractors in the country, Hensel Phelps.
“We didn’t want to be janitors but we hired a guy to take care of the trailers for the two and half years that we worked with Hensel Phelps,” Robert Lee said. “We don’t normally do that work, we still don’t do it, but then we could get on base (Holloman), move around and show them what we could do.
“I don’t think we would have found those contracts without the help of PTAP,” he said.
In 2009, Double Eagle Restoration was honored as the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year. The Lees are embarking on a new business venture with the U.S. manufacturing of a machine that sanitizes and deodorizes water without chemicals.
“Without the help of people at PTAP and SBDC, we probably wouldn’t be here today,” he said.
by Elke Mosholder
Senior PTAP Advisor
Sometimes when I get asked about federal contracting the question comes from a new client who alludes that he or she is going after that $50 million contract. That’s great, but it does take awhile to get to that point, especially if you’re a small business owner doing it for the first time. There are so many facets to getting from point A (getting registered) to point Z (contract administration).
And although some businesses successfully get through the process without PTAP, doesn’t it make more sense to have someone who walks you pass the pitfalls and hurdles, takes the red tape out of the red tape, and keeps you informed of what the federal agency is looking for?
I’ve spent more than 25 years working for or with federal government, first starting with the Department of Justice in El Paso, and now with PTAP in Alamogordo and Las Cruces. My work includes personally knowing the agency directors of small business operations, including those at Holloman Air Force Base, U.S. Border Patrol and White Sands Missile Range. My job also involves knowing what the agencies want and what type of businesses they are looking for to do it.
At White Sands, often road repair or IT-related services are put out to bid. At Holloman, they’ll look for construction, janitorial, equipment repair, lockers, unmanned aircraft operation centers, tables, oxygen, petroleum products, copier repair and target cleanup — although it can vary. And the Border Patrol will often look for alfalfa suppliers, as well as horse shoeing or farrier services. Although this isn’t a comprehensive list, it gives you an idea what services or products the agencies need. In fact, the federal government is the largest buyer in the world, spending more the $600 billion annually going to private sector businesses on thousands of different products and services.
State governments also represent excellent opportunities for small businesses. The government buys almost every type of product and service, providing opportunities to large and small businesses –including yours!
I’ll also receive calls from the agencies or from a prime contractor who are looking for another company to partner with and offer goods or a service they do not provide. I’ve been very successful at pairing companies up and planting those seeds for those partnerships.
Best advice (particularly to doing federal contracting in Southern NM):
DO Let the Alamogordo and Las Cruces PTAP offices assist you with providing your products and or services to the government.
DON’T Go anywhere else!
Federal contracting can be a great way to grow your small business, especially in rural New Mexico. Let all of us at PTAP help you get started today.
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.
by Karen Medina
When small business owners often think about selling their goods and services in the government arena, federal government often comes to mind. But some business owners may not be aware that their local city, county, college, university and school districts need area small businesses to supply them with maintenance, tires, construction, food supplies and other goods and services, especially if they are located in rural areas.
Obtaining that first contract with your local government is also a good way to get your feet wet before going after that big federal contract, which will require more paperwork, more stringent rules and regulations, and more accountability, whether you’re the prime contractor or subcontractor.
If you’re looking at tapping that first toe into government contracting or at least looking at the possibilities, here are some tips to get you started:
Do Your Homework
If you have an established business and you’re looking to win your first contract with a local or state government, do some research to see what good and services each organization is seeking. The City of Las Cruces Purchasing Section, for example, has a pamphlet on how to do business with the city and a website with a lot of great information. You can also contact each organization’s purchasing office and ask questions.
Resources Are Available to Help You Set Your Cost
One of the biggest questions that arise when submitting a proposal is: How much do I charge? You want to be competitive with your competition but you also want to make enough money to cover your costs and not lose money. If you’re unsure what to charge, contact your tax person or accountant to help give you insights on overall costs. Our sister organization, the New Mexico Small Business Development Center, a free resource for New Mexico entrepreneurs across the state, also can help you in finding those numbers. PTAP was created to help businesses become contract ready but we don’t give advice on determining what cost or price to charge for goods or services.
It’s OK to Knock on Doors
It’s OK to make appointments with purchasing departments in government organizations to introduce yourself and your company. Be aware that if the organization has open solicitations currently advertised and ‘on the street’ for which you have questions, you are not allowed to contact any other employees of the organization outside the purchasing department. You can also inquire about previous bids or requests for proposals (RFP) that have already been awarded because once an award is made, the documents become public information. Remember, too, that bid openings are open to the public. RFP closings, on the other hand, are not.
Don’t Be Afraid to Take that First Step
If you’ve never considered government contracting, you might be missing out on some great opportunities. There could be multi-year contracts available for the goods or services you provide.
PTAP is also available to look over your proposal and walk you through the process. Submitting a responsive proposal does not have to be overwhelming. It can be done.
Don’t forget: sometimes it’s easier to do business locally. So remember when looking to grow your business, don’t overlook your state and local governments.