E-government is also good news for those established entrepreneurs who are interested in selling to governments or expanding their customer bases. "We have programs designed to target minority, women and small business as well as local businesses, so we wanted to open up the purchasing process to be more accessible to everyone," says Walton. Since joining MunicipalNet Inc., Evanston has worked with suppliers as distant as Connecticut and Florida. You could be one of those companies.
Start by checking around locally. Walton has received a lot of positive feedback from the vendors he's done business with. Evanston has been diligent in getting the word out about its new e-procurement system to businesses in the area: The city has notified businesses through letters, press promotion, business associations and the chamber of commerce.
But, according to Sharrard, not every city is as thorough as Evanston. If you haven't heard about an online bidding system in your area, contact your local government to determine whether one exists and is in operation.
Sharrard still sees businesses' lack of Internet access as a hurdle in the rollout of e-procurement: "The governments are a little bit ahead of the private sector in moving online and, as a result, have to drag suppliers online. In the near term, suppliers who are online and willing to work through some of these channels probably have a slight advantage."
MunicipalNet Inc. deals with this problem by offering fax notifications to businesses that don't use the Web site. In the meantime, get a jump on the competition by exploring online offerings. Your city's official Web site is a natural starting point.