The federal prison in Berlin is looking for a business that can provide bread, specifically 5-inch hoagie rolls, hot dog and hamburger buns and sliced whole wheat.
The General Services Administration needs someone who can plow and landscape the Social Security building in Littleton.
And the Manchester National Guard is shopping around for a dealer who can provide musical instruments and other band equipment.
Those are just a few of the federal government’s contracts currently up for bid in New Hampshire. The U.S. government is the largest single shopper in the world, and each year, federal departments and agencies buy about $500 billion of goods and services from businesses and venders all over the country.
The Office of Government Contracting steers about 23 percent of all government contracts to small businesses, and has set goals for the number of contracts awarded to disadvantaged business owners, disabled veterans and women.
The steady business from a government contract can be a huge boost to a small business. But like many things run by the U.S. government, the federal contracting system can be a confusing maze of rules, requirement and documentation.
On Wednesday, the Center for Women’s Business Advancement at Southern New Hampshire University in Nashua will host a workshop on Women and Government Contracting. The free workshop, which runs from 9:30 a.m. to noon, will introduce participants to the opportunities for women with small businesses and explain some of the ways to navigate the federal government’s contracting system.
“The workshop is a joint venture with the Small Business Administration, the New Hampshire Procurement Technical Assistance Program (NH-PTAP),” said Mary Ann Manoogian, executive director of the center.
Together, women from three different agencies will share the good, the bad and the ugly about pursuing government contracts, she said.
“People tend to think about roads and bridges when they think about government contracts,” Manoogian said. “But there’s a whole range of other essential goods and services needed.”
Still, despite the opportunities, government contract shave a huge number of i’s to dot and t’s to cross. Delivering more than 6,000 loaves of sliced bread every three months to the prison kitchen staff in Berlin is the easy part. The more difficult part is the paperwork business owners need to fill out to get the job.
Rachel Roderick of the Small Business Administration will explain how the SBA can help, particularly with the Women Owned Small Business contracting program. Established in 2011, the WOSB program targets specific industries where small businesses owned by women have been underrepresented when it comes to government contracts.
Martha Keene of NH-PTAP will explain some of the resources her agency offers for women business owners who want to explore and bid on government contracts.
For small businesses that are new to the process of doing business with the government, subcontracting with an established government vendor may be the best place to nudge a foot into a door.
“One way to do that is to look at awards that have already been given,” Manoogian said.
The SBA also has lists of companies who are looking for sub-contractors to help fulfill government contracts.
Manoogian said the workshop will also include a business owner who will describe her experience with government contracting.
“It really helps women business owners to be able to talk to their peers,” she said.
Manoogian said having a business that can produce and provide what the government needs is the starting point for the complicated system of bidding on government contracts.
“We hope to de-mystify that process,” she said.