By Hannah Wallace June 30, 2005

Each year, the U.S. government pays private businesses more than $200 billion for everything from space vehicles to translation services, cancer research and paper clips. Florida state government spends another $1 billion-plus on goods and services purchased from Florida businesses each year.

Federal agencies are regulated to do 23 percent of their shopping at small businesses. The same regulations carve that up into fixed percentages for women-owned small businesses, disadvantaged small businesses, firms located in HUBZones (historically underutilized business zones) and veteran-owned businesses. "Government is the largest buyer of services and products in the country," says Peg Hosky of Hosky, Inc., a Washington-based consulting and marketing firm, which does work for the Federal Office Systems Expo, a large government technology trade show in D.C. "Because regulations require the government to support small and disadvantaged businesses, unique opportunities exist."

How can local small- to medium-sized companies forge business relationships with the government?

According to Laura Subel, it takes careful research and expert guidance. Subel is the program manager of the Florida Procurement Technical Assistance Center, a government-sponsored agency that helps Florida businesses obtain local, state and federal government contracts. In her view, opportunities abound—if you know where to look.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Establish a DUNS Number: For any contract over $2,500, you'll need a DUNS (Data Universal Numbering System) number, a service provided by Dun & Bradstreet. Hint: It's easier to get this number via phone than on the Web. Info: (866) 705-5711;
  • Register with Central Contractor Registration: To do business with the federal government, you'll need a CCR. When you complete the online application, you'll be directed to ProNet, a small business search engine government agencies use to locate subcontractors. Info:
  • Research federal contracts online: Vendors can search, monitor and retrieve opportunities from the entire federal contracting community starting at $25,000. You can also get daily e-mail alerts from across the government. Info:
  • Register as a Florida vendor: Not only a good idea, a requirement. Be aware that when you do, you're agreeing to pay 1 percent of your proceeds back to the state of Florida. Info:
  • Research state agency purchasers: Subel advises "face-to-face" meetings with state agency purchasers. In Florida, you can find a wealth of useful information at under "Doing Business with the State."
  • Visit the SBA Web site: The Small Business Administration Web site lists small business advocates by region; if you're a small business entering the government market, these people are eager to meet you. The site can also help you determine your small business classification. Info:
  • Research regional military bases in Florida: Each base has a small business utilization office. If you want to do business with a base, that office is your starting point. Info:
  • Market your business at trade shows:

    1. The Federal Buildings Expo targets the world's largest buyer of building services and products, the United States government. Info:
    2. FOSE is the largest and longest-running government technology showcase. Info:
    3. The GSA Expo markets all types of products, from tech to temporary office help. Info:

  • Advertise in trade publications targeting the government buyer, including Government Computer News, Government Product News and Government Leader.
  • Contact FPTAC: This agency provides free guidance to Florida businesses seeking federal, state and local government contracts. Its Web site provides up-to-date information on all upcoming seminars, workshops and other events. Info:


  • SBA offices in Florida:
  • The General Services Administration, the purchasing arm of the federal government, also runs a Small Business Acquisition Center which helps small businesses: (877) 327-8732;
  • Research the chief information officers in the largest government agencies:
  • INPUT is a company offering products and services in the government marketplace. It also provides in-depth government market insight and analysis and tracks over $500 billion in federal, state and local contract and grant opportunities.


Are you a small business? Small business size standards are based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). The Small Business Act states that a small business concern is "one that is independently owned and operated and which is not dominant in its field of operation." The law varies from industry to industry to reflect industry differences accurately.

Are you a woman-owned business? This is defined as a business that is owned and controlled 51 percent or more by a woman or women. Currently, a woman-owned certification process is not required for federal contracts.

Are you a veteran-owned business? This is defined as a business that is owned 51 percent by one or more veteran. There is no veteran-owned certification process to complete; simply self-certify.

Are you a service-disabled veteran-owned business? This is defined as a business that is owned 51 percent by one or more service-disabled veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs confirms disability.

Are you a small disadvantaged business? This is defined as a firm that is 51 percent or more owned, controlled and operated by socially and economically disadvantaged persons. African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans, Subcontinent Asian-Americans and Native Americans are presumed to qualify. Other individuals can qualify if they show by a "preponderance of the evidence" that they are disadvantaged.

Are you a HUBZone business? The Small Business Administration's HUBZone Program is designed to promote economic development and employment growth in distressed areas by providing access to more federal contracting opportunities. HUBZone is defined as a "Historically Underutilized Business Zone." Certified small business firms will have the opportunity to negotiate contracts and to participate in restricted competition limited to HUBZone firms.

Source: United States Small Business Administration Web site,

Filed under
Show Comments