7 Steps to Stimulus Money Consultant and author Mark Amtower offers a guide to winning stimulus funds.

By Mark Amtower

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Well, there is good news and bad news regarding ARRA, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. With nearly $800 billion in funding, there is always good news and bad news.

First, let's look at the bad news. If you have absolutely no experience selling to government at any level--federal, state or local--the likelihood that you'll land any significant money is minimal.

Now let's look at the good news. First, notice I said "significant money." In government terms, this is seven figures and up. If you have no experience, can you still be involved? Possibly, but it will take time, effort, homework and persistence.


Where will the money go? According John Hood, president of MCH, a business-to-institution database and mailing list compiler, stimulus infrastructure spending can be broken down like this:

State Fiscal Stabilization Fund$54 billion
Transportation $48 billion
Energy$44 billion
Infrastructure, water$41 billion
Education: Special Ed & Title I$25 billion
Healthcare IT$17 billion
Housing $13 billion
Other Projects$7 billion

The bulk of this money has not yet been made available, as there are transparency and reporting requirements that have to be in place before the money is released. You are not yet late to the game, but you will need to start devoting significant time to studying where the money is going if you are going to win some.

As most government contracting officers are already busy, the bulk of the money spent at each level of government will go through existing contracts.

So here's your action plan:

  1. Stimulus and Contracting Resources
    Decide where you fit. What products or services do you sell that are truly germane to these projects?
  2. Decide what level of government you want to sell to. Are you going to stay local to your business? Can you ramp up to state or federal business? Target the government agencies you wish to target.
  3. Go to Government Express Resources. Scroll down to "Doing Business with Links" (for Cities, State and Federal). Each of these provides direct links to the procurement websites for all states, all federal agencies and many major cities. What you will do here is start your education on how each level of government procures goods and services. You need to understand this before you proceed. Browse and bookmark this site while you are there, as it has lots of free information on doing business with the government.
  4. Next, go to Recovery.org (note this is not Recovery.gov). Government contract tracking firm Onvia created this site to show on a state-by-state basis where the money will be spent. You may need to subscribe to Onvia's bid tracking service to get details on each emerging opportunity.
  5. Identify the procurement people involved, and if possible, the program managers. These are people you need to meet. Like other markets, the government is a relationship market--it helps to know the people you are doing business with. The procurement offices will probably host briefings on various procurements, and it would be wise to attend as many as possible. You never know when a program manager will be there for Q&A. Jimmy Baker, author of How to Win Business from the Government, suggests going through the procurement websites carefully as often there will be names and phone numbers there. The same would apply to any new government websites dealing with the stimulus program.
  6. Get a GSA Schedule if you are pursuing business at the federal level. With the spending targeted for 2010, it is not too late to start this process. Consultant Linda Rodden also recommends keeping very detailed records of all the business you do.
  7. Do all the steps over again. Once you have done the initial self-education (a never-ending process in the government market), you may want to go back and see if you have picked the right opportunities for your company. There may be some (relatively) low-hanging fruit out there. But as consultant Jaime Gracia from the Octo Consulting Group reminds us, none of this is going to be easy.

    Wherever you find yourself in this process, regardless of where you are in the country, the ARRA spending will impact the community, and there will be some resources locally that will help you find out more.

Consultant and author Mark Amtower can be found at FederalDirect.net.

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