PTAC office staying busy

Colorado’s new Procurement Technical Assistance Center, which opened in November, has had no trouble staying busy helping businesses learn how to land government contracts.

The Colorado PTAC is a nonprofit 501(c)3, funded by federal, state and local grant money and in-kind support. It also partners with community colleges, universities, economic development corporations and small business development centers, etc.

PTAC Director Tom Elam and Deputy Director Ken Knapp gave a presentation at the latest BiggsKofford P.C. Entrepreneurial Corner event. BiggsKofford Director Michael McDevitt is the Colorado PTAC chairman of the board.

In fact, the PTAC, headquartered at 6 S. Tejon St., has grown wildly since its ribbon-cutting on Nov. 9. During its first five weeks, it had 123 active clients. By Feb. 25, it had nearly 400 clients. And more growth is expected. PTAC counseling services are free and confidential.

“Companies are coming to us in droves,” Elam said. “But we’re not at max capacity — we’re not even breathing hard yet.”

The PTAC also has full-time offices in Golden and Aurora, and in Grand Junction, where it sees business owners by appointment only. Counselors also travel across the state giving seminars.

Entrepreneurs and business owners who want to do business with the government have a steep learning curve.

“It gets so convoluted, you’d just give up,” Elam said.

“We sort through the chaff, and let you know what needs to be done for your situation,” he said. “I won’t do anything for you — but I’ll do anything in the world with you.”

The PTAC has a BidMatch search engine, which helps businesses find bid opportunities. Counselors also assist with proposal or bid preparation, putting the invitation for bid and the request for proposal side by side to make sure all points are covered.

“I like to say we are cradle-to-grave,” Elam said. “We help you along the way from when you first want to do business with the government, until you win a bid and close out the contract.”

One thing the PTAC does not do is business plans. Knapp recommends that entrepreneurs visit SCORE, the Small Business Administration or the Small Business Development Center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, for advice on starting a business.

Counselors do help business owners improve their “win rate” for contracts, by analyzing their business development and business proposals.

Knapp calls it “mules to missiles,” because the PTAC works with anyone in any industry, including a business that provided mules to the Army.

“That’s what makes this job fun — everyday it’s something different, from window cleaners to mule packers.”

Their search engine looks at 1,800 sites, so Colorado business owners can find opportunities anywhere in the country.

“Willie Sutton was a big bank robber,” Elam said. “Why did he do it? Because the money was in the bank! We do it because the government is where the money is.”

The federal government procures $500 billion annually. Colorado’s budget for procurement is $20 billion annually. And the PTAC intends to significantly increase the number of Colorado businesses that are capable of winning contracts, and to increase the state’s portion of federal spending.

“It’s a learning process (for small business owners). The first time through the bid process, it’s difficult — by the third time, you really know what you’re doing,” Elam said.

“But you cannot rest on the fact that you have a government certification, and then wait for the phone to ring. It’s marketing, marketing, marketing. You have to do it every day in the commercial sector, and you have to do it every day in the government sector.”

But once the PTAC points your business in the right direction, sales should grow.

“I can almost guarantee that somewhere in the United States there’s a government agency that buys what you’re selling,” Elam said.

Before speaking with a procurement counselor, small business owners should complete the PTAC client registration form, at www.ptassist.com/services/application.php?id=8FE5328056.

For more information, visit the PTAC Web site at www.coloradoptac.org, or e-mail info@coloradoptac.org.

To see all the federal contracts awarded, visit the Federal Procurement Data System Web site, at https://www.fpds.gov/fpdsng_cms.

Rebecca Tonn covers banking and finance for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.