For Veteran’s Day: Helping veteran-owned firms get their share of government contracts
Should veteran-owned enterprises be optimistic as we head into 2017? “Yes, 2017 should be a great year for government contracts for veteran-owned businesses and veteran-owned small businesses (VOBs and VOSBs),” says Matthew Pavelek, vice president of membership at the National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA). His organization’s mission is to create opportunities for all of America’s veteran-owned businesses. The association’s members include both VOBs and corporations.
Pavelek says the June 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kingdomware Technologies, Inc. vs. United States was positive news for VOBs. The Supreme Court decided that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs must set aside more contracts to be filled by veteran-owned small businesses.
The court unanimously decided that the department has not fulfilled its obligation to steer more business to small companies owned by veterans or service-disabled veterans simply by meeting its annual contract targets. The decision, say experts, is likely to assist more VOBs compete for the billions of dollars in contracts that the VA awards.
Things are looking up, says Brian K. St.Ours, founder of the Veteran Owned Business Project. “We’ve heard from several of our members who feel fairly optimistic about their chances getting into and/or growing in the government contracting space. Maybe it’s just optimism about government work or maybe it’s just optimism that the economy will continue to improve.”
The project offers a member network directory of small, medium and large businesses owned by veterans, service-disabled veterans, disabled-veteran business enterprises (SDVOSBs / DVBEs) active duty military, reservists and military spouses. It has 26,000+ members and 300,000+ supporters.
It can be an intense struggle to win public sector business, says Maria Horton, CEO of EmeSec. The Chantilly, Va.-based firm evaluates the IT security postures of its government and commercial customers. EmeSec provides cybersecurity solutions, engineering services and cloud security expertise. Horton’s photo is to the right.
“The government contracting market will remain fiercely competitive. There has been a lot of consolidation of contracts and many sub-contractors may risk losing their base,” says Horton. She advises VOBs and other business owners to go after niche market opportunities and services.
VOBs are a key part of the U.S economy. About nine percent of all U.S. non-farm businesses are majority-owned by veterans, estimates the U.S. Census Bureau. Those firms employ 5.8 million employees and dispense $210 billion in annual payroll. More than 38 percent of those VOBs have annual sales of $500,000 or more.
Governments recognize the value of encouraging VOBs to take part in the contracting process. Federal contract dollars awarded to Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses reached an historic high in fiscal-year 2015. For the fourth consecutive year, the federal government exceeded its contracting goal for SDVOSBs, achieving 3.93 percent or $13.8 billion of all federal small-business-eligible contracting dollars.
States, likewise, are giving VOBs a place at the contracting table. Government market intelligence firm Onvia says in a recent report that New York has committed to a six percent goal of spending on Disabled Veteran Owned-Businesses. That goal is double the federal government goal of 3 percent. The Onvia report: “States Set Unique and Varied Goals for Set Asides.”
Opportunities are growing for VOBs, says Chuck Schadl, Group Manager, Government Contracting Services at the Georgia Tech Procurement Technical Assistance Center. “According to statistics compiled by the U.S Small Business Administration (SBA) each year, there has been growth in the past several years in the dollar value of federal contracts awarded to VOSBs. There is no reason to expect that growth to stop,” says Schadl.
Onvia’s Guide for Small Business provides a low-cost source of state and local government bids, RFPs and leads. Through the offering, VOBs and other firms learn of government bidding opportunities before their competitors. It’s a solution for budget-minded firms that sell in three states or less. Go here to register.
VOBs can get a 25 percent discount off the subscription price to the Onvia Guide for Small Business, says Michael Litchev, who is Onvia’s Small Business Specialist (photo to the right). “Simply enter the promo code ‘VOB’ at the end of the registration process, after entering your payment details. The promo code will take 25 percent off your plan, and you will have access to customer service support to help your business familiarize itself with the Business to Government market,” Litchev explains. Read more on this topic at this Onvia site.
VOBs should use LinkedIn to find contracting opportunities, says Brian K. St.Ours of the Veteran Owned Business Project. He says a variety of veteran’s organizations share government contracting solicitations through this social media site that’s geared to business. “At the end of the day, the data and contact info is shared from lists that organizations generate, and those lists are shared to others,” St.Ours explains. “And it’s not uncommon at all to receive a call, email or social media shout-out from a contracting officer thanking us for sharing their bid.”