KEDA’s monthly Coffee Hour offers help in complex world of government contracting

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Mona Carlson for the KPBJ

Mona Carlson

Mona Carlson Government Contracting Specialist

Next Contracting Coffee Hour is April 1st!

Contracting with the federal government is a vastly different, and generally more complex, experience than vendors and service providers generally encounter when contracting with private business organizations.  Ironically, the extensive regulations and policies that can make this process so cumbersome to small businesses were actually established to benefit, guide, and protect them.

Small and disadvantaged firms are afforded the widest opportunity to develop and grow through contracting opportunities with the government. All they have to do is comply with over 600 Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) provisions and clauses (and equally as many follow-on clauses and provisions established by each agency).  It is definitely not for the faint of heart.  If you are old school and prefer a hard copy of the FAR, you will have to comb through over 2,100 pages of regulations.  Thankfully, today search engines, and yes, YouTube videos, make it easier to find the information that pertains to your contract more quickly.

That is assuming you know what you don’t know.

The government will identify in each solicitation or contract the applicable provisions and clauses for that action, but in a construction contract that could equate to over 200 clauses. However, in the event that the RFP (Request for Proposal) or contract omits a clause that is required by law, it is included by default and must be complied with.  To further complicate matters, those new to working with the government often find it difficult to access help and guidance. Local contracting personnel are bound by even stricter standards and must maintain the highest level of ethics and cannot risk showing prejudice between contractors by assisting individual contractors during the RFP process.

The burning question for both new and experienced contractors is “where can I go for help?”  Fortunately there is help. The Washington State Procurement Technical Assistance Center receives funding from the Department of Defense, employ counselors and staff to help bridge the gap and provide businesses with technical expertise needed to achieve success in the arena of doing business with the Government.  PTACs provide free and confidential business assistance and support to regional businesses in marketing and selling to federal, state and local government agencies and prime contractors.  PTACs also assist agencies, departments and primes in their efforts to comply with federal and state procurement diversity goals.

Here in Kitsap, the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance (KEDA) is your local Washington PTAC sub-center with a service area covering five counties: Kitsap, Clallam, Grays Harbor, Jefferson and Mason.  In addition to providing one-on-one support and procurement training classes and seminars, KEDA recently established an open forum the first Wednesday of every month where businesses can receive help on just about anything related to contracting with the Government.  The informal atmosphere also provides an opportunity to network with other contractors; discuss current issues; identify upcoming solicitations or subcontracting opportunities; and receives instruction on specifics like how to register in Wide Area Workflow or resolve SAM (System for Award Management) issues. And it is a great platform to find answers to questions that you didn’t even know you needed to ask.

The “Contracting Coffee Hour” (sorry, no drive through) is hosted by KEDA and facilitated by Mary Jo Juarez and Mona Carlson, both retired Government contracting officers each having over 30 years’ experience in government contracting. Sessions take place at KEDA (4312 Kitsap Way #103) from 7:30 a.m. until the questions run out.  In recent sessions, Chugach, the new Base Operating Services Contractor provided guidance on how to get established in their subcontracting program.  There was also an impromptu session on marketing to government that included evaluating and updating capability statements, line cards and business cards.

Another benefit of the coffee hour sessions is that KEDA has been able to identify problem areas and expand and target their training to be responsive to the issues contactors are facing. KEDA’s PTAC training schedule and resources are available online atwww.kitsapeda.org/ptac .

So, if you haven’t managed to read all of the FAR’s 2,100 pages, (even if you have and you just have questions) call (360.377.9499) or stop by (4312 Kitsap Way, Suite 103; Bremerton, WA 98312) the first Wednesday of each month for coffee and an answer.

• Mona Carlson has over 30 years’ experience in government contracting; recently working as a supervisory contracting officer for NAVFAC NW (Naval Facilities Engineering Command, NW). In addition to sharing her expertise with KEDA PTAC clients, Mona also works as a government contracting consultant with Blue Ink Consultants. To learn about KEDA’s PTAC program, contact Kathy Cocus at cocus@kitsapeda.org.

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