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Make the government a customer

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There’s good news for small businesses. The federal and state government have made it a priority to give more contracts to small, women and minority-owned businesses. Government contracts can be lucrative, and can create a steady customer.
There are many specific steps required for the government to consider you as a client, but there are many options to help you navigate the federal and state procurement systems.

Selling to the commonwealth
Virginia’s online procurement system is your access to more than 12,000 buyers, including state agencies, local governments, and colleges and universities. Virginia’s electronic purchasing system can be accessed at http://www.eva.virginia.gov Virgi.nia has spent more than $22 billion through eVA. The PEW Center Charitable Trusts has called Virginia’s electronic procurement system one of the best in the country. You could be missing out on some major clients if you don’t register.

Here’s how to register with the eVA system.

Step 1: Evaluate how much Virginia spends on your product or service
• Click on “NIGP Code Look Up” in the left margin to find the codes that correspond with your product or service
• Type key words into the search box about your product or service. These codes are important because buyers use these codes to look for vendors.
• Return to eVA’s home page. Click on the “Public Reports and PPEA Opportunities” link under the home page’s Quick Links.
• Click on link next to the description “Order Summary with Standard NIGP Commodity Code Search.” Enter a date range and all codes that correspond with your business.
• Click on the blue NIGP code to evaluate the report. This report offers the vendor’s name, buyer, order date and price of purchase. This report will help you evaluate whether the state is a viable client for your business.

Step 2: Find upcoming business opportunities
• Click on “Solicitations and Awards” from the eVA home page. Search for opportunities by NIGP code or business keywords.
• Find future prospects by clicking on the “Future Opportunities” link on the eVA home page. Codes and keywords can be searched here. The results will show the estimated purchase date, the purchasing agency and details about future opportunities.
• The “State Contracts” link from the home page will show whether a statewide contract currently exists for your product or service.

Step 3: Take advantage of SWAM opportunities
• Small, woman and minority owned businesses (SWAM) should complete their SWAM certification to take advantage of Virginia’s efforts to increase purchases from SWAM businesses.
• Visit http://www.dmbe.virginia.gov/swamcert to fill out a free SWAM application.
• The Department of Minority Business Enterprise can provide more information on certification. Call toll free at 1-800-223-0761 or 804-786-6585 or email dmbe@dmbe.virginia.gov

Step 4: Register on eVA
• From the home page, http://www.eva.virginia.gov click, on the Vendor tab and use the “Vendor Sign-Up/Registration” link. Click on the “Registration Quick Guide.” You can call the Customer Care hotline at (866) 289-7367.
• Make sure you are prepared with the following information to register:
    Business location
          Federal Tax ID number
          Legal and trading business name
          Duns number. (Register online at http://www.ccr.gov)
          Name and contact information for employees who will manage your account.
          Your NIGP commodity codes

Step 5: Set up ARIBA
• Starting an ARIBA account will allow orders to route electronically to suppliers. ARIBA also allows suppliers to use e-Catalog functionality.
• From your eVA account screen, click on the ARIBA button on the upper navigation bar to register.

Step 6: Create an electronic catalog
• eVA allows users to create an electronic storefront for state procurement officers. You can use the site’s Basic Catalog to create a spreadsheet of your products and services or use a Punchout Catalog if you have an Internet site with shopping cart technology.
• From the eVA home page, click on the Vendor Tab. Click the “How to Create Vendor Catalogs” link.

Step 7: Use the Virginia Department of Business Assistance’s resources
• The Virginia Business Information Center provides assistance for businesses at its Web site, http://www.vbda.virginia.gov or by, calling (866) 248-8814 or e-mailing vbic@vbda.virginia.gov.
• One-on-one counseling sessions with state procurement assistance staff.
• The Supplier-Buyer Exchange is an electronic newsletter for buyers and sellers in the commonwealth. E-mail vbic@vdba.virginia.gov to add yourself to the distribution list.
• Supplier-Buyer networking events. Events will be listed at the department’s Web site.

Selling to the federal government
One of the best sources to explore federal contracts is at Procurement and Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) across the state. These centers, managed by the Defense Logistics Agency for the U.S. Department of Defense, provide mostly free assistance to companies who want to do business with the government. PTACs put on networking events, hold seminars and offer one-on-one counseling that can help you:

• Determine your suitability for government contracting.
• Ensure you have completed necessary registrations, such as Department of Defense’s Central Contractor Registration (CCR), the SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search, and other government vendor databases.
• Research the procurement history of companies with products and services similar to yours.
• Identify bid opportunities you are eligible for.
• Prepare proposals for contracts, including correct pricing for your product or service.

Once you have secured a contract, PTAC counselors are still available to help you. Services include:
• Developing a cost-accounting system.
• Creating a financing plan.
• Developing environmental, quality control and accident prevention plans.
• Preparing you for contract auditing. The center counselors will let you know what to expect and help you get forms in order.

PTACs in Virginia can also help you navigate state and local governments’ systems for business. Following is a list of Virginia’s PTACs.

Virginia Procurement Technical Assistance Program (Statewide PTAC)
Mason Enterprise Center at George Mason University
http://www.vaptap.org
4031 University Dr.
Suite 200
Fairfax, VA 22030
(703) 277-7757

Northern Virginia PTAC (Affiliate of statewide PTAC)
http://www.novaptac.org
4031 University Drive, Suite 200
Fairfax, VA 22030
(703) 277-7757

Central Virginia PTAC (Affiliate of statewide PTAC)
http://www.cvptac.org
2211 Hydraulic Road, Suite 103
Charlottesville, VA 22901
(434) 293-2136

Hampton Roads PTAC (Affiliate of statewide PTAC)
http://www.hrptac.org
5300 Palmer Lane, Suite 2A
Williamsburg, VA 23188

Crater Procurement Assistance Center (Regional PTAC)
http://www.craterptac.org
P.O. Box 1808
Petersburg, VA 23805
(804) 861-1667

Hampton Roads Procurement Assistance Center
(Affiliated with Crater Procurement Center)
http://www.vatpdc.com/hrpac
4111 Monarch Way, Suite 106
Norfolk, VA 23508
(757) 683-5542

Southwest Virginia Community College PTAC
(Regional office)
http://www.sw.edu/ptac
P.O. Box SVCC
Richlands, VA 24641
(276) 964-7334

UIDABusiness Services
(Native American PTAC – Satellite office)
http://www.uida.org
2340 Dulles Corner Boulevard
Herndon, VA 20171
(703) 561-3120

U.S. Small Business Adminsitration
The SBA tries to boost small businesses’ share of government contracts through its Prime Contracts and Subcontracting Assistance Program. The SBA provides counseling for companies seeking to do business with the government. Visit http://www.sba.gov/gc for more information.


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