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Posted: May 19, 2009

Government contracts made EZ

Emerging areas of opportunity include environmental and financial industries

Mary Butler

If you've never heard of a GSA Schedule, just think of it like money in your pocket. 

The GSA or U.S. Governmental Services Agency creates "schedules" or pre-awarded contracts that allow the government "to purchase the way a commercial company would purchase," slicing a 250-day process down to something that takes 15 days, said Scott A. Orbach, president of EZGSA, a Washington, D.C.-area firm specializing in the management of federal contracts.

Given the government has $787 billion in stimulus money to spend, becoming a GSA-qualified contractor is a must if you want to benefit from those dollars, said Orbach, who led a seminar in Greenwood Village on Tuesday.

"There's not enough staff to write all the contracts" the government will need, Orbach said. "It's got to rely on pre-awarded contracts. That's the link between the GSA and the Recovery Act."

The connection isn't lost on business owners seeking work. While the recession has reduced work in most industries, government is one of the few sectors where opportunities are increasing. More than 90 people attended Orbach's seminar at The Sheraton Denver Tech Center Hotel, representing industries including software, accounting, environmental, construction and even the U.S. Mint.

Orbach, who has spent more than 15 years in business consulting and contract management, said federal stimulus dollars have, in particular, created new opportunities for companies specializing in environmental and sustainability services.

"Colorado businesses are going to do very, very well," he said. "Environmental is a very important feature in Colorado - let's not forget the Department of the Interior is headed up by one of Colorado's native sons (Ken Salazar). He has a parochial interest to serve Colorado well."

The other emerging area of opportunity lies in the world of auditing. Due to the large amount of money being spent, and the pace at which contracts will be awarded, the potential for abuse is ripe, Orbach said. 

There's going to be "anywhere between $30 (billion) and $80 billion for auditors and financial people to come in and basically find the missing money," he said. "While 99 percent of contractors are ethical and honest, money will get dispensed and lost." 

Orbach equated the current flood of contracts to what happened post 9-11: "Seven years ago, all the money was spent in security… you saw a 3½-fold increase in security," he said. "You will see something similar in environmental sustainability and financial audit analysis now."

So what do companies need to do to get in on the action?

"They need to be prepared and understand the customer," Orbach advised. That includes having a functional marketing plan and sticking with it.  

"There is no magic pill," Orbach said. A business owner has to "be able to go out and represent their company and understand where the opportunities are."

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Mary Butler is ColoradoBiz's online editor.

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Readers Respond

Although Scott is absolutely correct there is one BIG potential glitch. These mechanisims are "only licenses to hunt!" You still must be able to navigate through the convoluted waters & jungles of actually "contacting & doing business with the Military and Federal Government." It can be VERY frustrating if you do not know the "how to's" formal ways to conduct yourself, or if you don't know anything about FAR, CFR, DFAR etc. etc. By Ben Garcia on 2009 08 07

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