The shaky state of the federal budget didnt deter 15 local businesses from attending a workshop about writing winning proposals for government contracts Wednesday.
Business owners representing industries from construction to interior design were at the presentation organized by the Colorado Procurement Technical Assistance Center. The center helps businesses find and apply for government work opportunities. The talk was a chance for local businesses to learn the ins and outs of the governments bid process.
Government work is a way for businesses to expand and diversify their customer base, especially considering the still-weak private sector, said Kathryn Lobdell, a procurement counselor with the center.
The government buys pretty much anything, so businesses have to find out what the government is buying and what theyre selling, Lobdell said.
A lot of money is being spent here by federal, state and local governments, even in the slow economy, said Joe Keck, director of the Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center.
Government contracting can be especially valuable for industries where the private sector has dried up in the last couple of years, said Ken Knapp, deputy director with the Colorado Procurement Technical Assistance Center.
We definitely see businesses looking to government as another revenue stream to balance their market, Knapp said. Commercial business may have leveled off in a certain industry, so businesses are looking to government.
Since the center opened in Colorado in November 2009, the number of Southwest Colorado clients it has worked with to secure government contracts has doubled from 39 to 78. The value of contracts awarded to those businesses in this area, from Dolores County to Archuleta County, topped $7.5 million through August.
Michael Russell, owner of Durango-based Russell Planning and Engineering, was one of those who looked to federal clients when he saw the private construction market, especially homebuilding, starting to fade.
We saw a decline in people buying houses, building houses, so we opted to diversify our client base, Russell said. (The government) currently has more work available than the private sector.
The company now has contracts for various government projects including Lake Nighthorse and Mesa Verde National Park.
The government bidding process isnt an easy one, though, and it takes a lot of time and money to break into the game, Russell said.
The company went through a year of preparations before it received its first contract.
But its worth the work to beef up business, Russell said. And even though the governments budget seems to be on the ropes, it is a more secure employer than the private sector right now, Russell said.
If we get a contract and we start working on it, theres a pretty good chance were going to get paid for it versus the private sector, where weve had some projects get bankrupt, he said.
And many times, the company has to absorb those costs.
The reliability of government contracting was one reason Allan Bleak and his company, Preferred Contracting and Consulting, has switched 100 percent of its business to government work.
The abilities of the company also meshed well with the well-defined requirements of government work, Bleak said. Especially with federal projects, budget cuts dont affect projects that already have been contracted, he said.
The government doesnt really run out of money, he said.