My next series of posts will review resources available to small business owners competing for work in the federal subcontracting market. The primary purpose is to highlight lesser known resources and promote those better known with a focus on the construction industry. The first article of the series will focus on programs and resources offered by prime contractors designed to assist small business subcontractors.
In FY 2013 the government obligated approximately $17 billion for the construction of “Structures and Facilities”. With relatively high small business subcontracting goals stipulated by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) there are numerous small subcontracting opportunities available. In FY 2013 the NAVFAC small business subcontracting program achieved $6,096,337,865 in small business subcontracting.
Prime Contractor Resources for Small Businesses
The Small Business Administration (SBA) and Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACS) are two training resources available to small business, but a number of prime contractors offer robust training programs for subcontractors as well. Given the focus on small business utilization, local market knowledge and influence of small businesses, and their ability to positively impact local economies it is not surprising some prime contractors work to cultivate the small business community. A couple of examples of programs offered by prime contractors include contracting colleges or training programs and subcontractor mentoring programs.
The training programs offered are typically scheduled to meet anywhere from once per week to once per month over a span of six weeks to ten months. Topics covered in the training provide small businesses with the tools and knowledge to improve business operations. In addition, many of the prime contractors cover information that is helpful in subcontracting with that particular organization such as the pre-qualification process required for bidding. Typical training topics included:
- Project Management
- Risk Management
- LEED / Green construction
- Labor laws
There is a fair amount of attention, and rightly so, directed towards government mentor-protégé programs established to promote and grow small businesses. Over the years the various programs have been instrumental helping participants expand and grow, especially SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program. Many small business are not in a position to enter a government sponsored mentor-protégé program, but need a little mentoring and training to become more effective and efficient. In response several general contractors have established similar corporate programs designed to mentor and train small business subcontractors. The programs have a structured training curriculum covering specific business and construction related topics and provide mentoring for field, project management, and corporate staff. In addition, the mentor programs are typically project specific where the targeted small business(es) are paired with an experienced large business subcontractor and must conform to several requirements stipulated in an open and transparent agreement. Several examples are included below:
- Perform a specific and meaningful scope of work
- Develop a training program designed to strengthen the weak areas
- Provide a quarterly report of self-performed work
- Provide a quarterly report of training accomplished
- Agree to periodic program audits
Next post will cover resources offered by several national professional associations that might be beneficial for small business. Note the information is not intended to serve as an official endorsement or advertisement for any association or business – it is provided to increase awareness within the Federal contracting community.