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Uncle Sam Wants <i>You</i>

You don't need to be a multinational to work with the government.

So you thought only big defense contractors and major corporations did business with the U.S. government? Small businesses, step up to the government till.

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Find out why city and county government contracts could be your best bet in Red, White and You.

PRO-Net, the SBA's Procurement Marketing and Access Network, is a decade-old government contracting program that provides more than 210,000 vendors and companies with visibility to a variety of government agencies and even other companies, explains Arthur E. Collins Jr., assistant administrator for operations and program support in the SBA's Office of Government Contracting and Business Development. The network is designed for small businesses that are independently owned and operated-not companies that are considered dominant providers in their markets.

In 1994, the service hit the Web, and it's grown by about 1,000 vendors per month since then. While PRO-Net currently has no way to track performance or work garnered through the system, it is nonetheless an ideal way to gain valuable exposure. "It can be a very powerful marketing tool, regardless of the size of the business or the years it has been in operation," says Collins.

Here's how it works: Any company can hit the PRO-Net Web site and register as a vendor. The list of vendors is then accessible to government agencies and private companies. To be competitive among the thousands of companies listed, Collins recommends businesses update their credentials and list of successful projects at least once a year.

"This is an opportunity for small and emerging businesses to get their name and capabilities in front of state and federal organizations, even private organizations looking for small-business providers," concludes Collins. "We want it to be a door to doing business [with the] government."

Journalist and author Jeffery D. Zbar has worked from home since the 1980s. He writes about home business, teleworking, marketing, communications and other SOHO issues.

This story appears in the February 2001 issue of Startups. Subscribe »