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U.S. Department of Commerce

Selling to the U.S. Department of Commerce
Information from the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization

The more you understand what the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) does, how its bureaus and offices operate, and what products and services it needs, the easier it will be for you to identify pertinent contract opportunities and to establish a good working relationship with DOC.

We recommend you utilize the following to help you in this process:

  1. Review the DOC Organization webpages, listed below, to get an understanding of the different DOC bureaus. Also, for a list of DOC Department Officials, visit the following webpage www.commerce.gov/organization.html

    What does DOC do? (Brief Overview)
    DOC works to create the conditions for economic growth and opportunity by promoting innovation, entrepreneurship, competitiveness, and environmental stewardship.

    DOC offers assistance and information to increase America's competitiveness in the world economy; administers programs to prevent unfair foreign trade competition; provides social and economic statistics and analyses for business and government planners; provides research and support for the increased use of scientific, engineering, and technological development; works to improve our understanding and benefits of the earth's physical environment and oceanic resources; grants patents and registers trademarks; develops policies and conducts research on telecommunications; provides assistance to promote domestic economic development; and assists in the growth of minority businesses.)

  2. Review DOC's current Fiscal Year Budget and DOC's Strategic Plan.

  3. Review DOC's Top NAICS (FY05) to see the types of products and services that DOC buys. Related Information: North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes, developed by DOC's Census Bureau, are figured by either dollar revenue or number of employees. Determine your company's NAICS code(s).

  4. Register to receive electronic notices through FedBizOpps. FedBizOpps is the single government point-of-entry (GPE) for all federal government procurement opportunities over $25,000. Government buyers, such as DOC, are able to publicize their business opportunities by posting information directly to FedBizOpps via the Internet. Through this portal, commercial vendors seeking federal markets for their products and services can search, monitor and retrieve opportunities solicited by the entire federal contracting community.

  5. Review the DOC 'Forecast of Contract Opportunities' to identify planned acquisitions (generally $100,000 and above).

  6. Information Technology (IT) service providers should learn about DOC's preferred and unique Government Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) called COMMITS NexGen. In this GWAC, only small business IT service providers can serve as prime contractors.

  7. IT companies may visit the Office of the Chief Information Officer website for CIO office information.

  8. There are several 'Buying Authorities' (Acquisition Offices) that facilitate purchases for the different offices at DOC. Basically, there is no one central acquisition office. Please visit the DOC Acquisition Offices for locations and general contact information.

  9. Upon determining which DOC bureau/organizations you want to market to, contact the appropriate Small Business Specialist by emailing or calling them to introduce your company and sending them your capabilities statement. The Specialists work in the bureau acquisition offices and help review and identify possible small business opportunities in the contracting process.

  10. The OSDBU provides counsel, assistance, socioeconomic data, procurement information and can also direct small business vendors to various offices that may have a need for your product or service. The following highlight key objectives of the DOC OSDBU: Increase contract and subcontract awards to small businesses; identify potential small businesses for use by DOC and its prime contractors; establish partnerships with internal customers and industry to obtain feedback, improve customer service, achieve goals, and share information; disseminate small business procurement goals and accomplishments to the public and DOC management; create awareness of the benefits of working with small businesses through marketing and training; monitor and report data regarding DOC’s subcontracting program; develop annual goals for contracting and subcontracting with small business concerns.

  11. Small businesses may also email their capability statements or call the OSDBU to introduce their company. The OSDBU participates in different capacities (i.e., exhibiting, one-on-one counseling, and serving on panels discussions) at local, regional, national outreach events. The OSDBU periodically hosts outreach events during the year (see OSDBU 'News and Events' website). However, the OSDBU does not have regularly scheduled outreach sessions.

  12. Make sure your company is registered in the Central Contractor Registration (CCR). The Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) now require both current and potential government vendors to register in CCR prior to award of any contract, basic agreement, basic ordering agreement, or blanket purchase agreement. Contractors are required to have Federal Tax ID Numbers (TIN) and DUNS numbers when registering.

  13. Become a General Services Administration (GSA) Federal Supply Schedule contract holder. GSA awards contracts to multiple companies supplying comparable products and services. Once GSA awards the contracts, DOC and other agencies may order directly from the Schedule contractor. DOC and other agencies benefit when using Schedule holders since it helps take advantage of streamlined acquisition procedures, pre-negotiated price discounts, lower administrative costs, etc.

  14. Be prepared to discuss specific projects that you can do for the bureau/organization/division.

  15. DOC follows the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR). Any company interested in doing business with the federal government should be familiar with the FAR, especially the sections relating to small business and subcontracting.

    The following sections of the FAR may be of particular interest:
    ...Part 19: Small Business Programs
    ...Part 52.219-8: Utilization of Small Business Concerns
    ...Part 52.219-9: Small Business Subcontracting Plan
    ...Subchapter C: Contracting Methods and Contract Types
    ...Subpart 2.1: Definitions (for federal contracting terminology)


    Teaming: Teaming is a good opportunity for small businesses to increase their experience base as well as to work with larger, more established companies.

    For a small business looking to get its first federal contracting experience or for a company seeking growth in the federal market, teaming is a good option. Teaming allows the large business to satisfy its contractual obligation (in select cases) to subcontract a portion of its contract to either a small, 8(a), disadvantaged, woman-owned, veteran-owned, service disabled veteran-owned, or HUBZone business.

    Conversely, many other-than-small businesses actively seek small firms to team on contracts that have small business set-asides. These businesses are willing to lend their expertise to assist smaller firms in meeting the government's requirement for past performance and business experience in exchange for a portion of the smaller business' prime contract with the federal government. In this situation, both parties also win because the smaller firm gains the expertise of the larger, more experienced firm and the large firm gains additional work and revenue. There are several methods one can use to find potential teaming partners.

    Many other-than-small businesses that are active in the federal marketplace have Small Business Liaison Offices (SBLOs) to help identify and support small business outreach and teaming efforts. If an other-than-small business has an SBLO, contact them directly. If there is no SBLO, then you may want to start by contacting their purchasing office. Inquire about the types of goods or services that they purchase from outside vendors.

    Other-than-small prime contractors will often advertise for teaming partners in SUB-Net. In addition, DOC publishes a list of its large business prime contractors that small businesses can market to.

    If you are seeking a teaming partner to augment your capabilities, a good place to meet them is at industry tradeshows and other networking events.

    Mentor-Protege: Typically, mentor-protege programs have mentor firms (prime contractors with active subcontracting plans) receiving incentives for entering into agreements with protege firms (small business concerns). Such agreements establish developmental assistance programs provided by the mentor firm for the protege firm. DOC does not currently have a mentor-protege program. However, some other agencies such as the Department of Defense, NASA, and Department of Energy do have Mentor-Protege programs.

    Conferences and Tradeshows:
    There are many conferences, tradeshows, and educational seminars to aid small businesses in selling their products or services to the federal government. Some congressional offices even host procurement or vendor sessions for established and potential small businesses. Most agencies have their own business opportunity fairs/seminars. Many conferences are announced on the SBA website and on the federal OSDBU websites.

    In addition, there are different interagency conferences that are geared specifically to small businesses. For example, the DOC's Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) and the SBA co-sponsor the national Minority Enterprise Development Week conference held annually in Washington, DC. During this week, most federal agencies set up information booths where potential contractors can visit, pick up information about the agency, its procurement plans, relevant agency contacts, etc. Seminars related to federal contracting are also offered. Visit the DOC OSDBU news and events or MBDA websites for event information.

    Business Development Centers
    Companies who need assistance in researching the federal marketplace, as it applies to their goods and services, can also find assistance from MBDA's Minority Business Development Centers and SBA's Small Business Development Centers. The SBA will also provide a list of Section 8(a) contracts by region, for a nominal fee.

    Trade and Other Organizations: Read about and become involved with as many trade and professional organizations as you can. You'll be able to learn and network with acquisition professionals, joint venture partners, and others that may lead you to federal contracting opportunities.



    Credit Cards: Accepting government credit cards can help you attract more federal buyers. In many cases, the government will use the federal credit card for goods or services purchased under simplified acquisition procedures and for micro-purchases (see FAR Part 13 - Simplified Acquisition Procedures). We suggest that you consider accepting orders placed using a federal credit card for two primary reasons: (1) In many instances, this is the only method that some end users have to accept the goods or services they need; (2) Once the end user accepts the goods or services, payment is handled very quickly as with any other credit card transaction. Note, that the dollar limitations on the credit cards vary depending on the buying office.

    Capability Statement: A capability statement - (i.e., brochure, flyer, email, etc.) that highlights your products or services - can be sent to the appropriate DOC bureau Small Business Specialist. Whatever format you decide to use, a capability statement should include the products or services that you offer (along with NAICS codes as applicable), a narrative description of your business, a list of past and current clients with brief project descriptions, your address and telephone number, and a point of contact.

    One-on-One Contact: By maintaining regular contact with the appropriate personnel (i.e., Small Business Specialist, Program Manager, Contract Officer, Contracting Specialists, OSDBU) you can remind them of your capabilities, find out about any changes in the agency's procurement plans, and be in a better position to compete when new requirements develop. You should always have a solution to the government's needs and to be the first firm government staff think of when they see a new requirement in your area of expertise.

    Ability to 'Deliver': Make certain your company can fully provide the product or service as promised. Nothing will strip you of your credibility faster than making promises or claims that you cannot fulfill. To prevent this, realistically assess your capabilities, internal management resources, and financial capabilities. Before contracting with your firm, the government will evaluate your past performance and assess your ability to perform successfully in the future. To make certain you can pass this evaluation, talk to previous clients and ask them how they felt about doing business with your firm. If they have positive things to say, ask them if they would be willing to serve as a reference.

    Business Cards: Your business card should be easy to read and include a brief description of the primary capability of your business. It would also be helpful if it listed the type(s) of small business categories that your company is in (i.e., SB, SDB, 8(a), WOSB, VOSB, SDVOSB, HUBZone). Thousands of firms market to the government, and it is difficult to retain from year to year the brochures and capability statements we receive. However, your business cards are easier to maintain. Therefore, the more descriptive your business card, the easier it will be for federal agency staff to contact you for various market research, network, or outreach opportunities.



    The Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS), operated by the General Services Administration, provides information on federal contracts. There is a lot of good information on their website regarding federal agency socioeconomic accomplishments and goals.


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