Editor’s note: The curtain comes down on the 2016 federal fiscal year on Sept. 30. GPN reached out to Tom Johnson to learn ways that small business contractors can meet the needs of federal buyers. We also asked Johnson about the pace of federal bid awards in the fourth quarter.

Johnson is publisher of Set-Aside Alert, a contract information service for small businesses that are federal contractors. Johnson’s views are below. You can contact Johnson at tjohnson@setasidealert.com.

The strength of many communities is based on the local, small and minority/woman-owned firms that provide goods and services to those communities. Their contributions in terms of local jobs, property and sales taxes, employee spending and community giving are keys to community stability and growth.

Often, program managers and buyers are skeptical about small businesses and their ability to handle the job. In fact, small businesses are more focused, more customer-responsive and more likely to be flexible in meeting customer requirements.

Over one-quarter of federal purchases are now made from small businesses. Federal agencies seek out small, minority-owned, woman-owned, veteran-owned and HUB firms for a wide variety of their requirements. For example, Uncle Sam’s procurement of Professional Services from small businesses has increased by 117 percent over the last five years.

When a small business wins a contract, the company CEO is often right there to see that it is done right. For product purchases, the local business has the technical knowledge to help select the best solution, and provide quick response for maintenance and repair services and spare parts and supplies. Local contractors take pride in their work and want to do it right since their future depends on referrals from satisfied customers.

Fiscal year-end is coming up for the federal sector. Early in the year, the average number of set-aside federal bids was 60-80 per day. Now that we are starting the fourth quarter, the average is 175 per day.

A good source for identifying local companies is the Dynamic Small Business Database (DSBS) of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Doing a search in DSBS by geography and industry will produce a good source list in real time. Narrowing the search to include only SBA-certified woman-owned or HUBZone or 8(a) firms identifies companies that have been vetted by SBA. The National Minority Supplier Development Council and Women's Business Enterprise National Council also vet companies to help you federal buyers select firms that can do the job.

Set-Aside Alert focuses on small businesses, minority-owned and women-owned businesses, veteran- and SDV-owned businesses, SBA 8(a)-certified companies and HUBZone businesses. Since 1992, the firm’s market intelligence service includes daily e-mail notices of all small business contracting opportunities and biweekly newsletters. The company’s offerings provide news, insider tips and strategies used by successful small businesses.

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