MONTPELIER — For Nicole Kesselring, president of Enman Kesselring Consulting Engineers, of Rutland, assistance from Vermont Procurement Technical Assistance Center was a key factor is her company securing a five-year federal contract worth hundreds of thousands of dollars with the U.S. Forest Service for architecture and engineering services for the Green Mountain, Finger Lakes and White Mountain national forests. Without help from VT PTAC, Kesselring Consulting probably would not have landed the contract.
“The contract was is serious trouble,” Kesselring said.
The problem was a delay is in getting a notarized letter from the federal System for Award Management. In order to secure any federal contract, a private business must be registered in the SAM vendor database.
VT PTAC helped fast-track the approval letter by using a “back channel” according to Kesselring. Without VT PTAC’s help, the vendor registration probably would not have been completed in time for consideration for the federal contract.
Margi Swett, owner of the Colchester-based Vermont Awards and Engraving Inc., has a similar story. VT PTAC helped her company get a contract to produce braille signs for gender neutral public bathrooms in Vermont.
“I wanted to express my appreciation for the work the PTAC group has done for my business. The big one is that in June we won our first-ever state contract and without the help of Babette Lizotte and Brenda Plastridge it would never have happened.” Lizotte and Plastridge are VT PTAC procurement counselors.
VT PTAC, according to Vermont program director Joanne Spaulding, is a state and federal government program that provides in-depth understanding of the complex documentation and product specifications for government contracts that most businesses lack.
“By proactively searching for appropriate opportunities for each business’s needs, VT PTAC makes itself an indispensable partner in government procurement,” she said.
The Vermont PTAC assists Vermont businesses through the process of becoming a government contractor.
“We assist in bid preparation and review. We guide businesses through government certification programs such as HUBZone, Women-owned, and Veteran and Disabled Veteran Service,” Spaulding said.
HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zone) certification allows qualified businesses to gain preferential access to federal contracts due to limited economic development in rural communities. VT PTAC assists these businesses through educational workshops, one-on-one counseling, aiding with compiling the necessary documentation for applying to the program and guiding businesses through the online application.
VT PACT provides guidance to Vermont businesses at all levels of government contracting including federal, state and local governments as well as providing assistance on Small Business Innovative Research and Small Technology Innovation Research.
It does not assist in grant writing or the submission process.
“We can offer assistance at any level. Whether there is a renovation or new construction project at any government facility or an order for port-a-potties for FEMA, we can help connect the eligible businesses to those opportunities,” Spaulding said.
In 2017, the Vermont PTAC served hundreds of businesses that resulted in over $197 million in government contracts and subcontracts, according to Vermont Department of Economic Development Commissioner Joan Goldstein.
“The more successful our Vermont small businesses are in the government marketplace, the stronger our regional and national economies grow,” Goldstein said.
“The government buys literally everything and we are here to make sure they are getting it from qualified Vermont vendors,” Spaulding said.
VT PTAC is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the Defense Logistics Agency. It is also funded by the Vermont Department of Economic Development, where it is positioned as part of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Although the program is funded 50/50 with federal and state funds, all staff members are state employees.
PTAP was authorized by Congress in 1985 in an effort to expand the number of businesses capable of participating in the government marketplace. The program provides matching funds through cooperative agreements with state and local governments and nonprofit organizations for the establishment of PTACs to provide procurement assistance for businesses seeking federal contracts. There are 94 PTACs nationwide with over 300 local offices. Vermont offices are in Springfield, Newport, Burlington and Rutland with the main office in Montpelier.
Some PTACs are administered directly by state governments, others partner with universities, community colleges, local economic development corporations or other local institutions. Some PTACs operate within Bureau of Indian Affairs areas exclusively serving Native American owned businesses.
On Sept. 26, PTACs nationwide celebrated the first National PTAC Day with a national webinar “Top Tips for Finding and Winning Government Contracts.”
“The Vermont PTAC provides an important benefit to Vermont businesses by assisting companies who not only supply products and services to the US Department of Defense, but also to our local governments,” said Vermont Gov. Phil Scott about National PTAC day. “By supporting small businesses in securing contracts, they are supporting Vermont’s economy. So, this national recognition provides a great opportunity to acknowledge and promote the work of our VT PTAC team, and the success of Vermont companies in this space.”