Government Contracts: PTAC
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November 16, 2007
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MUSKEGON — The Muskegon-based ProcurementTechnicalAssistanceCenter is hoping that its new educational components will show some increased results on behalf of its clients this year.

The center now requires all its contractors to sit for an extensive three-hour overview of the federal and state procurement systems, Procurement 101: How to Become a Government Contractor. There will be 12 sessions this year, including four in Grand Rapids and four in Muskegon. The next class is scheduled for Jan. 10 in Grand Rapids.

"We had always done a short overview before, and it just wasn't enough information for companies to realize the broadness of what it takes to sell to the government," said Pamela Vanderlaan-Poort, director of the center. "The classes give potential clients a good realization of the commitment it is going to take."

The ProcurementTechnicalAssistanceCenter is a nonprofit organization created to assist companies in the 14-county western and central Michigan area earn federal government contracts. It ended its fiscal year last month with $49 million in government contracts between its participating contractors. That is slightly less than the 2005-2006 total of $92 million, largely due to the absence of a substantial one-time $68 million contract the previous year.

Overall, the volume of government contracts appears to be rising, even if the total dollar amount isn't. ServCorp Inc., a 3M wholesale distributor in ComstockPark, is having a record year thanks to $2.5 million in contracts this year.

Unique Truck quipment in Grand Rapids is also seeing growth from federal purchasers, thanks largely to the firm's involvement with the procurement center.

"It's the most beneficial when we're challenged with a situation where we don't know the internal workings of the military or the government," said Ryan DeWard, Unique Truck quipment vice president of sales. "They are invaluable as intermediaries when we run into a roadblock, and no one on the inside can or wants to tell us how to work through the maze. … Through the course of dialogue, you learn what else they're capable of and what they can help you out with."

The staff at the center encourages these types of relationships. It nominated Unique Truck quipment for Contractor of the Year last year, in part for its willingness to communicate with them.

"When I first met them three summers ago, I said, 'I'm going to be very upfront with you — you need to communicate with us often,'" said Vanderlaan-Poort. "This guy started out calling me five times a day, and he quickly became a successful contractor."

With a 14-county coverage area and more than 200 companies in its database, the center staff does not have the time to seek out client needs, she explained. However, many of the program's services are automated. The center contracts with a Texas-based firm to match bids to member companies and alert them to new opportunities in a daily e-mail. There is also an exhaustive search option in the solicitation portal, which aggregates 1,100 different buying activity Web sites.

"It really cuts down on the amount of time a company has to invest daily in searching for procurements," said Vanderlaan-Poort.

The portal also provides bid and purchase history for each solicitation.

"It's really more of an encyclopedia to me," said Martha Herman, procurement specialist for ServCorp. "I get a lot of research from them. I find the price and go from there. They advise me along the way."

The ProcurementTechnicalAssistanceCenter offers a wide variety of services: bids, forms and publications, government registrations, counseling, procurement history, specifications, standards and drawings, subcontracting assistance and State of Michigan Contracting Assistance

Perhaps the greatest service for most companies is the center's role as an entry point to government contracting.

"There is a lot of rigmarole involved in becoming a certified contractor," said Rolf Metcalf of Metcalf Machine in Ravenna. "But the government does have a lot of money, more than most companies have, and (the center is) very knowledgeable on how to get that all set up for you."

The center, which is housed at Muskegon Area First at

900 Third St.
in downtown Muskegon, is funded 50 percent by the Defense Logistics Agency and 50 percent by the Michigan conomic Development Corp., Muskegon Area First and other local funding bodies.

The Department of Defense recently announced a grant to the center for $216,315 for the current fiscal year. The state matched those funds.   

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