American Express OPEN Event Teaches Success through Government Contracting
By: Maurese O. Owens
“America’s success depends on the success of small business,” was the theme you heard throughout the day at the American Express OPEN “Grow Your Business through Government Contracting.”
This day-long free event was held at the Marriott Wardman Park in the nation’s capital on June 15. It offered expert advice, buyer/selling matchmaking, breakout sessions, and plenty of networking opportunities. All are designed to help the small business owners on the right path to obtaining contracts from the $500 billion that is spent by the government for goods and services. Twenty-three percent of that volume is portioned for small business.
John Shoraka, Acting Associate Administrator of Government Contracting and Business Development at the US Small Business Administration (SBA), was the keynote speaker. Twenty-three percent of the $500 Billion in contracts for goods and services are negotiated by Shoraka’s office for small business. He referred the audience to the various resources available such as the Government Contracting Classroom that provides self-paced courses on how to do business with the government.
He also mentioned the recently redesigned CAPLines Program to help small business’ short-term and cyclical working capital needs. Shoraka also talked about ProgramsHUBZones. These are locations that are Historically Underutilized Business Zones and ripe for businesses who happen to be at those locations.
For government contractors, the golden rule is: “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” A survey by the American Express OPEN on small business contractors said it took an average of 4.4 bids before they won their first contract, said Alex Ytuarte, senior manager of customer advocacy at AMEX OPEN.
The 2010 survey of contractors performed for the Victory in Procurement (VIP) for Small Business Program showed that active business contractors have invested in seeking federal contracting opportunities have averaged $103,827, an increase of 21% over the previous year. This shows that small businesses are keenly interested in growing their business through federal contracts.
There was a fair representation of Asian American participants at the conference, from those who are venturing into government contracts for the first time to those who have been at it for quite sometime.
Susan Cam, originally from Thailand, has been in the construction business for two years. She and her husband own Treeking Home Improvement. She was at the conference to get her feet wet and learn about the contracting business. Her business challenges include getting funding up front, seeking advice, and navigating the District offices.
Christine Ortanez Nuessle, originally from the Philippines, is president and COO for Bravium Consulting, Inc., a management and technology consulting firm that is a minority owned 8(a) and a women-owned company.
Started just in 2010, it has obtained private contracts in the healthcare and legal industries and now ventures into government contracting. Nuessle found the conference extremely valuable. “I learned a lot of basic information that will be helpful in obtaining our first government contract. I wasn’t aware of the importance behind the Capability Statement. I attended a break-out session on that topic where I noted several changes that need to be made to my Statement before I could send them to my government contacts.”
American Express OPEN, the small business division of the financial services company, also recognized three small business owners for their outstanding achievements in government contracting during the third annual Victory in Procurement (VIP) Awards.
Government Contractor of the Year: Amber Peebles of Dumfries, VA-based Athena Construction Group, a general contractor and construction management company specializing in light commercial and federal construction, received this award. The company had a rough start when it launched in 2003 and faced financial losses during a difficult economic period.
The company took a bold and decisive action. It got certification as a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business, Woman-Owned Business, and Historically Underutilized Business Zone construction company. Athena Construction Group was able to obtain work by sub-contracting, prime contracting and teaming. It worked itself out of the recession, hired new employees and is projected to increase its revenue over 2011 by 23%.
Teaming Contractor of the Year: This award went to Ron Perry of Taya Technologies, an Alaska Native-owned 8(a) certified Small Disadvantaged Business that provides professional services to government and commercial clients.
With hard work, little start-up capital and plenty of advice, the company has grown to becoming a prime contractor on about 90% of their projects and sees its growth this year up by 300%. Perry attributes this incredible success to government contracting through partnering and teaming.
Woman Contractor of the Year: Necole Parker of Washington, DC-based The ELOCEN Group, a woman-owned 8(a) certified Small Disadvantaged Business specializing in program and construction management services carved her niche within government contracting. The firm has received multiple-year contracts and completed over 20 projects totaling more than 12 million square feet of new construction and renovated space. They expect to increase their 2012 business by about 30% and have expanded operation to Atlanta.