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Frequently Asked Questions

Federal Government Procurement

What is the first step?

Contact the Mahoning Valley Procurement Technical Assistance Center (MV PTAC) at 330-759-3668 ext. 124 or 330-259-5166, or by email at norma@mvedc.com. It will save you time and money.

How much do MV PTAC services cost?

All services provided by the MV PTAC are free of charge.

What does the government buy?

Federal, state and local government agencies buy everything from toothpicks and cleaning services to spaceships and cancer research. The key is to determine which government agencies buy the products and/or services you sell and to develop a focused marketing strategy targeting those agencies. The MV PTAC can help you identify potential government customers and learn how to approach them.

Does the government always award the contract to the low bidder? 

No. In many instances the government awards the contract to the company that provides the best value, and this does not necessarily mean the company offering the lowest price. Other factors such as technical capability, past performance and quality may also be considered. MV PTAC can help you interpret a request for bid or proposal so that you understand which evaluation factors will be used in determining who gets the contract.

Does the government pay on time? 

Provided your shipping and invoicing documentation is correct and complete, you can expect a timely payment. In fact, federal agencies offer a prompt payment in return for a discounted price, and prefer to pay by Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) to speed up the payment process. Federal agencies also pay interest on the amount they owe you if they delay payment past the stated terms of the contract. MV PTAC can help you with your paperwork and also help you register to be paid electronically.

System For Award Management (SAM)

What is SAM? 

The System for Award Management (SAM) is the federal government’s official vendor registration system. All vendors are required to be registered in SAM prior to bidding on a contract with any federal government agency. SAM collects, validates, stores and disseminates data in support of federal agency acquisition activity. SAM serves as the source documentation for paying vendors through Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT).

I am having problems with my SAM Registration. What do I do?

Contact MV PTAC for personalized assistance. Since its launch in late July 2012, SAM has experienced a range of technical difficulties. MV PTAC counselors have access to the latest information, tips and workarounds to help work through the difficulties you may be experiencing. MV PTAC counselors can also provide assistance via phone.

Does registering in SAM market my company to the government?  

No, registering in SAM does not market a company to government buyers. The SAM database collects information necessary for a government buying entity to contact or maintain contact with a company. This registration also provides the information necessary for the transfer of funds via electronic funds transfer (EFT).

Miscellaneous Questions

Are there web sites where I can see what the government is buying? 

Yes, the federal government posts contracting opportunities on several web sites. The primary site is http://www.fbo.gov. All departments and agencies of the federal government are required to post contracting opportunities and award information relating to opportunities that are valued over $25,000. In general, the home page of each federal organization will contain a link for business opportunities. Some organizations are now posting opportunities valued below $25,000.

Do I need to be on a GSA schedule in order to do business with the government? 

No, although it may be beneficial for certain types of small businesses. Think of the General Services Administration (GSA) as a buying entity for other federal government agencies. GSA awards “schedules” or long-term contracts to vendors who provide certain goods and services required by those agencies. Then, when the agencies have a need for a particular product or service, they can buy it from one of the vendors on the schedule for the pre-determined price. A vendor might get lots of business by being on a GSA schedule, but there are no guarantees. MV PTAC can help you determine if your company is a good candidate to apply for a GSA schedule contract, as well as help you through the application process.

What is SBA’s definition of a small business?

SBA defines a small business concern as one that is independently owned and operated, is organized for profit, and is not dominant in its field. Depending on the industry size standard, eligibility is based on the average number of employees for the preceding 12 months, or on sales volume averaged over a three-year period. Examples of SBA general size standards include the following:

  • Manufacturing: Maximum number of employees may range from 500 to 1500, depending on the type of product manufactured
  • Wholesaling: Maximum number of employees may range from 100 to 500 depending on the particular product being provided
  • Services: Annual receipts may not exceed $2.5 to $21.5 million, depending on the particular service being provided
  • Retailing: Annual receipts may not exceed $5.0 to $21.0 million, depending on the particular product being provided
  • General and Heavy Construction: General construction annual receipts may not exceed $13.5 to $17.0 million, depending on the type of construction
  • Special Trade Construction: Annual receipts may not exceed $7.0 million;
  • Agriculture: Annual receipts may not exceed $0.5 to $9.0 million, depending on the agricultural product.

Do I need to be certified in order to bid on government contracts? 

No. Except for certain “set aside” contracts, the government does not require any general certification for a company to be eligible to bid on contracts. Companies must meet all requirement(s) of each solicitation. Any company who has been previously debarred is excluded from government contracting. Some companies may qualify for certifications that may afford preference on certain contracts or may increase the opportunity for subcontracting opportunities.

What are the federal government’s small business certifications?

8(a) – The SBA’s Section 8(a) Business Development Program — named for a section of the Small Business Act — is a business development program created to help small disadvantaged businesses compete in the American economy and access the federal procurement market.

To be eligible, the applicant firm:

  • must be a small business
  • must be at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged individuals
    • African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, Subcontinent Asian Americans, and Native Americans are presumed to quality.
    • Other individuals can qualify if they show by a “preponderance of the evidence” that they are disadvantaged
  • must be owned by individuals of good character who are citizens of the United States
  • must demonstrate potential for success
  • must have a personal net worth of no more than $250,000
  • must have been in business for two years (evidence by tax returns)

Visit SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program website.

SDB – Small Disadvantaged Business status is now a self-certifying process. In order to claim the SDB status, a small business must be at least 51% owned and controlled by a socially and economically disadvantaged individual or individuals. African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, Subcontinent Asian Americans, and Native Americans are presumed to quality. All individuals must have a net worth of less than $750,000, excluding the equity of the business and primary residence. Successful applicants must also meet applicable size standards for small businesses in their industry.

HUBZone – The HUBZone Empowerment Contracting Program was adopted to stimulate economic development and create jobs in urban and rural communities by providing federal contracting preferences to small businesses. These preferences go to small businesses that obtain HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zone) certification in part by employing staff that live in a HUBZone designated area and maintain a “principal office” in one of the HUBZone designated areas. Visit the HUBZone website.

WOSB – The Small Business Act authorizes contracting officers to specifically limit, or set aside, certain requirements for competition solely among women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) or economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSBs). This is referred to as the WOSB Program. To qualify for this program, the small business must be at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more women. The owners must document their eligibility by completing either a WOSB or an EDWOSB application and uploading it, along with other supporting documentation, to an online SBA Repository. Visit the WOSB website.