Governments Spend Billions; Get Your Company’s Share

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Government agencies are good customers for small businesses, and representatives of federal, state and local entities told local companies Tuesday how to get their share of government contracts.

The Covelli Centre’s community room was the setting for a seminar that identified opportunities for small businesses. The program was hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, in conjunction with the White House Strong Cities, Strong Communities program.

“All of the speakers are trying to get across that there are lots of opportunities to do business with all levels of government,” said John Renner, supervisory business opportunity specialist with SBA.

Attendees heard from representatives of the SBA, HUD, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission, Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corp., Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority, and the cities of Youngstown and Warren.

“I want people to realize that the federal government is a viable market for a small business and to start to do research so they can make an informed decision on whether they should include the federal government as a target market,” Renner stressed.

The federal government purchases $500 billion in goods and services annually and is mandated to spend 23% of those dollars with small businesses, he continued. Last year, about $7 billion of that was spent in Ohio but just $8 million was spent with companies in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, Renner noted.

Over the past five years, the federal government spent $67 million in the two counties, he added.

“Somebody in this country is getting all of this work,” he remarked. “Why not bring it here to northern Ohio?”

Most new job creation comes not from large corporations but from small operations, said Antonio Riley, Region 5 administrator for HUD. Tuesday’s program was an example of the federal government’s efforts to speak with one voice and partner with local government to discuss small business development and how government resources and programs can spur private sector growth.

“Small business is the lifeblood of our economy,” affirmed Marianne Markowitz, Region 5 administrator with SBA. Small businesses create two out of every three net new jobs, she said.

SBA offers training and certification programs to help small businesses compete for and get federal contracting opportunities, she said.

This week is National Small Business Week “so it’s important to take time to recognize that,” Markowitz noted.

One opportunity for small and disadvantaged businesses comes from the Public Housing Act of 1968, which requires recipients of certain HUD funds to provide employment and contracting opportunities to individuals and businesses that meet specific income criteria under its Section 3 program.

“It is race neutral,” Riley said. “It’s just basically about the size of your business and economic status.”

Nationally, about 1,000 businesses are on the Section 3 registry but just six of those companies are in Ohio, he pointed out, numbers Riley said he hopes to increase through business outreach events.

The HUD official also discussed a smartphone app that can be used to notify qualifying businesses when federal contracting opportunities are available locally.

Businesses can receive help selling to federal, state and local governments from the Procurement Technical assistance Center at MVEDC, based in Liberty Township. Letting businesses know “what services are out there that they can call and get help with” was the purpose of Tuesday’s event, said Norma Webb, technical procurement specialist with MVEDC.

Contracting opportunities with the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission range from highway construction work in the $35 million range down to selling bottled water, “and just about anything that you can imagine in between,” said Tammie Jo Marsilio, director of contracts and compliance with the commission.

“The Ohio Turnpike is open for business and we are particularly interested in small local businesses and doing everything that we can to make sure they get those [contract] awards,” Marsilio said.

Few Mahoning Valley companies participate in the opportunities available, she added. To boost participation by local businesses in turnpike and infrastructure work, the commission is planning an event, probably in late August, to bring together the state’s prime contractors on major projects with available local subcontractors, she said.

Among those attending the program was Lisa Johnson, controller with Iron Eagle Enterprises LLC, an oil field services company in Youngstown. The company is looking to bid on more government jobs, particularly bridge work, she said. The program was “very informative” regarding the application process and getting the company’s name exposed.

Jennifer Brown, an economic development specialist with the Mentor office of CT Consultants, was impressed with the free online resources available for business startups. “Usually you find that stuff online and there’s a cost for it, she said.

The event provided “a good networking opportunity,” said Michael Weymer, CEO of Integrated Entry Systems, Vienna Township. The company sells commercial metal doors and frames.

“It’s good to see what else is out there,” he continued. “Sometimes you get zeroed in on a particular market, zeroed in on particular jobs, and this opens your eyes to other opportunities.”

Pictured: Antonio Riley, Region 5 regional administrator for HUD, urges local company representatives to seek government contracts.


Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.