June 20, 2018
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Government purchases: A good market for Maine small business

By Michael W. Aube, Special to the BDN

As our nation and state work to move out of a recession, many businesses are identifying new markets for goods and services.

We live in a global marketplace, with opportunities to sell goods, products and services to China, India, Eastern Europe and other expanding markets. However, in order to really compete in that arena there needs to be knowledge of exporting systems, tariffs and an awareness of distinct cultural differences. Instead, Maine businesses should consider the real, immediate opportunities on our own shores with one of the country’s largest consumers — the U.S. government.

Based on the most recent data from www.fedspending.org, fiscal year 2010 provided federal contracts nationwide in excess of $500 billion. In Maine, federal contract obligations were in excess of $1.6 billion to more than 700 contractors. Approximately 20 percent of those were awarded as the result of full and open competition, meaning that our Maine businesses were competing with the rest of the country and winning.

Further, federal contract obligations in excess of $1.3 billion were awarded to more than 300 Maine contractors who work on projects in our state and across the country. Twelve percent were awarded as the result of full and open competition — proof that this market provides opportunity for Maine businesses to diversify their market base and provides opportunities for growth and additional awards.

So, how does a business learn about the government marketplace? How do you find out what’s being asked for and how are bids and proposals developed?

Fortunately, Maine is part of a nationwide network of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, or PTACs. The statewide Maine PTAC program is financially supported by the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, the U.S Department of Defense and Eastern Maine Development Corporation. The program currently has offices and experienced counselors located in Augusta, Saco, Bath, Portland and Bangor. Maine PTAC also works in partnership with Androscoggin Council of Governments in Auburn and Northern Maine Development Corporation in Caribou.

The PTAC counselors work with Maine companies interested in selling products and services to local, state or federal government agencies, either as prime contractors or subcontractors. PTAC services are provided to a wide range of businesses, from professional service providers like architectural and engineering firms to manufacturers and suppliers.

In 2010, Maine PTAC worked with more than 600 Maine-based businesses. In turn, these businesses reported sales in excess of $194.8 million in goods and services from government awards. A total of $81.2 million of those reported awards came from subcontracts.

Who are the businesses successfully working with the government? Meet just a few …

  1. Maine Rebar Services Inc. of Windham is a woman-owned small business with more than 15 years of experience specializing in quality placement of concrete reinforcing steel for the building of bridges, highways and other structures. Its superb track record of having participated in the construction of major projects throughout New England has earned it an excellent reputation as a safe, competent and experienced rebar installer. The result has been a steady stream of subcontract awards since 1995.
  2. Northeast Civil Solutions Inc. of Scarborough is a service disabled veteran-owned small business that became a PTAC client in 2007. The firm cemented its role as a prime contractor and in June 2010 was awarded its first Coast Guard contract and has subsequently begun receiving delivery orders under that contract. In late 2009, NCS was approached by a national engineering firm to work with them on a sizable surveying and engineering contract at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, for which Cianbro was the prime contractor.
  3. OTT Communications of Bangor is a premier voice and data telecommunications provider, operating throughout New England. As a result of the Maine PTAC bid match service system, OTT Communications experienced success in being awarded state and local government contracts such as providing voice and data communications services to the Maine State Legislature for a five-year period.

The PTAC story doesn’t end with a government contract award. EMDC, through its nationally recognized model of integrating business development with work force development, now works with successful businesses to connect them with employees who have the skills necessary to help their businesses grow. These are examples of building relationships with Maine’s business community to help them expand markets and for people to get jobs with businesses that are growing.

Maine PTAC is providing real results for Maine businesses looking to grow. Their partnership with organizations like EMDC, ACG and NMDC provides another level of service that goes beyond securing a single project. It’s about a network. It’s about relationships. It’s about working together to make Maine the best it can be.

To learn more about Maine PTAC, go to www.maineptac.org and check out Maine PTAC’s free online workshop, “Introduction to Government Contracting.” In the coming weeks, Maine PTAC is offering two opportunities for area businesses to learn more about government contracting, on Monday, Feb. 27, in Dover-Foxcroft and Thursday, March 8, in Bangor. For information on times and locations or to register to attend one of these sessions, go to the Events Calendar on the Maine PTAC website.

Michael W. Aube is president of Eastern Maine Development Corporation in Bangor. He is a past commissioner of Maine’s Department of Economic and Community Development and former state director of Maine USDA Rural Development.

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