Leading Question

By Hannah Wallace May 31, 2009

Businesses are bombarding local government and economic development staffs with the big question of the moment: How can I get my hands on some of that stimulus money?

With an estimated $14 billion in stimulus dollars expected to flow through Florida’s state agencies, and an additional $1.2 billion to be channeled directly to local governments and other entities over the next two years, businesses eager to bid on local, state and federal government work should strike now, says Don Winstead, special advisor to Gov. Charlie Crist for the Implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

While a large share of the state funds are allocated for Medicaid, education, fiscal stabilization and unemployment benefits, the two industries in Florida with the greatest potential opportunity for business are transportation and energy. Half of the state’s $1.4 billion investment in transportation infrastructure will have to be under contract by early July, and the remaining 50 percent under contract a year later. “Clearly there’s going to be a big impact on construction and building trades and secondary and tertiary industries that support them,” says Winstead. “Energy and green technology is another big area. Energy block grant money is going to cities and counties. They’ll be developing plans on how to fund green government. “

But just about any business could benefit.

The first step is to register as a vendor with state and local offices. Winstead recommends visiting the Florida Office of Economic Recovery Web site as a starting point, and reading both the Funding Guide and the Vendor Guide, which offer detailed resources, including FDOT projects and real estate vendor links. (Visit and click on the “Documents” menu. Scroll down to “Applying for Funds,” and download the documents.) To register as a state vendor, visit My Florida Marketplace at

City and county procurement offices require a separate registration process. SarasotaCounty, which anticipates a windfall of $30 to $50 million in stimulus funds over the next two years, mostly for “shovel ready” projects, in addition to its own $290 million local program to fast track capital projects, registers vendors through Visit a city or countyWeb site and click on the procurement or purchasing menus for more information.

The federal government will allocate an additional $85 billion in stimulus funds through a competitive grant process. Local businesses should not assume they’re ineligible or unqualified for federal contracts, Winstead says, but there are a lot of rules and regulations to follow. “There are federal offices in many communities in Florida and there are state offices in virtually every community,” he says. Federal projects for bid are listed at the Federal Business Opportunities Web site,

The DemandStar Web site has details about how and where to become a registered federal vendor, and recommends completing paperwork before beginning to search for federal contracts.

Business owners should also visit the Recovery pages of the Small Business Administration Web site ( to learn more about programs, loans and tax incentives as they are posted.

Florida’s direct assistance programs will be augmented over the next few years as well, says Winstead, with projected additional funding of $800 million for food stamps and $I billion in unemployment compensation, “So grocers, retailers, people involved in meeting basic needs, need to know low-income people will have more funds,” he says.

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