How Small Businesses Capture Federal Stimulus Money

We’re all one degree away from someone who’s a small business owner. These intrepid souls face the same pressures nowadays as the global Fortune 100s: clogged sales pipelines, price-sensitive overhead, and shortage of working capital.

Yesterday, I took a field trip to study up on how small businesses can grow in these lean times, through tapping into stimulus-fed opportunities. The event was hosted by a team of non-profit and publicly-funded organizations that exist to promote small business, from such public and private entities as the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Stimulus funding is divided into 10 general categories across multiple agencies, all with varying timelines. $85 billion in stimulus funds are tagged for my home state of California, in the form of $55 billion worth of government projects and programs plus $30 billion in tax relief. Of that, some $224 million has made its way south through Sacramento to my home county of San Diego, arriving in three forms: opportunities through the federal government’s GSA, via state-administered programs, and through programs administered by local agencies.

The rules for succeeding in the 2009 rush for stimulus funds are the same ones we all adhere to for staying in the game: Persevere and Promote. Today’s federal and state government arms are our biggest, most profitable target customers, as well as multi-tiered resource banks. With that in mind, here’s the assignment list I drew up for my own small business, to put us one step closer to directly benefitting from the stimulus package:

  • Persevere; the process can eat time upfront, but gradually becomes part of a routine follow-up process for forming a pipeline, that could result in winning bids that are set aside for small businesses. Register as a certified small business with local, state and federal purchasing offices and large area enterprises. Veteran, disabled, or minority owners should identify themselves. Then, sign up to receive automatic e-mail notices of contracts. Schedule a periodic update of status; renew as needed.
  • Promote expertise and availability through frequent, personal interaction. Every day, call existing and prospective customers. Too busy to stop work to attend that networking mixer? Close the office, wash up, grab the business cards, and go anyway. Market the company’s goods and services through trade associations, chambers, and industry networking. Feed the prospect pipeline with a mix of long-lead and short-term deals. Seek follow-on (short lead time) work from existing customers, while reaching for the stimulus-fed, government and enterprise arena (longer lead time).
  • Here’s a list of helpful, verified weblinks to help small businesses form their stimulus-fed growth plan, with notes on what makes them helpful:

  • Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board – recovery.gov is the mac-daddy of stimulus program websites. Get a bird’s-eye view of the big machine before drilling down for STATE, LOCAL, TRIBAL and TERRITORIAL information. (http://www.recovery.gov)
  • US Small Business Administration – start here to find local offices, and stop along the way to see the benefits of affiliation with trusted partners. SBA is a cooperative effort of the private sector, the educational community, and federal, state and local governments. (http://www.sba.gov)
  • Want to win federal government contracts? Start out by registering as a contractor at Federal Business Opportunities, then enroll to receive scheduled notifications of applicable programs. This is the place to register businesses in the Central Contractor Registration, aka CCR Database. (http://www.fbo.gov) and (http://www.CCR.gov)
  • State procurement programs may be found at such websites as this one, for California. In turn, each agency posts opportunities per sub-agency, and links to small business advocates. (http://www.eprocure.dgs.ca.gov)
  • There’s a growing army of government employees and contractors who’ve won the privilege to advocate on behalf of small businesses, and come in the form of such private-public nonprofit groups as:

  • Business Matchmaking (note their sponsorship by Hewlett Packard, who procures more than $6 billion of goods and services in the USA).
  • California’s network of 30 Small Business Development offices, who co-hosted this event. SBDCs are often partnered with International Trade Centers (SBDITCs) and run within community college districts… very effective way to reach emerging businesses with plans to export and import. (http://www.sbditc.org)
  • Chambers of Commerce, who are taking the initiative to lead members toward stimulus wins, to the betterment of the community and local tax base. The National City Chamber of Commerce, who co-hosted the event, and Mayor Ron Morrison demonstrate a united, cohesive and well-planned campaign. (http://www.nationalcitychamber.org)

    All are eager to prove their worth in the system, to retain their group’s share of the funding pie, and for the most part think and move in an entrepreneurial frame of mind.
    (http://www.businessmatchmaking.com), (http://www.sbditc.org), and (http://www.hp.com/go/goodbusiness)

  • When small businesses persevere, promote, and utilize government outlets, they will maintain their edge and be well-positioned for future growth.

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