Open Season: Learning How To Hunt For Business With The Federal Government

Dec 15, 2014

David Pease, who heads up the state's Procurement Technical Assistance Program, tells business people attending his classes that the federal government buys $400 billion in goods and services every year and they should explore those possibilities.

Every year the federal government buys about $400 billion worth of goods and services including about $1.9 billion from New Hampshire. But there are many missed opportunities because doing business with the government is complex and can be confusing, says David Pease, who heads up the New Hampshire Procurement Technical Assistance Program...

“There are thousands of pages of procurement regulations not, I think, because the government loves bureaucracy but because the Congress wants the way our money is spent to be scrupulously fair and transparent." 

“If you are Boeing Corporation or General Electric or General Dynamic you can employ an army of attorneys and administrative people to figure out what all this means and what you have to do and what the requirements are. But if you are smaller, you just don’t have the resources to do that.”

Pease’s department tries to provide those resources, holding classes around the state and providing one-on-one coaching, most recently in the North Country, where such efforts are needed.

In 2013 companies in Coos County did about $1.8 million in business with the federal government including providing services to the federal prison in Berlin. But that’s way behind other parts of the state. Northern Grafton County did about $17 million in business, according to state records.

But one example of a new contract with the feds can be seen on a fall afternoon in Dalton where members of the special forces are accelerating hard and then sliding rally cars through a thick, slippery goop at the Team O’Neil Rally School and Car Control Center.

The school teaches the art of going fast on loose surfaces such as dirt or mud. And the U.S. government figures that is something the special forces should be able to do. So, it put out a notice, soliciting bids.

And that bid caught the eye of Chris Cyr, the general manager at Team O’Neil.

“We found a course which was perfect for us. It was a driving course that the military needed.”

But the paperwork for submitting a bid was incredibly complicated.

“We didn’t know how to get started.  As an outsider it was long nights.”

Pease’s department got involved and Team O’Neil won a five-year contract that could total up to $2.2 million. That’s a huge economic boost for the company which has 17 full-time employees, Cyr says.

“In one contract we were able to grow our business 30 to 50 percent on a given year which is huge for me as a business guy.”

In Littleton Pease’s office recently worked with the nonprofit Affordable Housing Education and Development, or AHEAD. It helps low-income families find housing.

AHEAD wanted to lease almost 10,000 square feet of its office space to the federal government for an expanded clinic for veterans.

But just taking the first step was hard says Michael Claflin, AHEAD’s executive director.

“You are referred to these manuals on line that are hundreds of pages long and tell you that you have to do it in this square and put it in that round hole and put a bow around it or they won’t accept the bid. It really is that specific.”

That’s when Pease’s group stepped in.  AHEAD got the deal.

Pease's classes include computer work to help understand how the federal bid process works.
Credit Chris Jensen for NHPR

It includes a $1.7 million contract to renovate the office space. And that’s good news for local businesses, says Claflin.

“All the contractors will be local.”

Pease’s department – which has three employees - has a budget of just almost $417,000 a year. It is evenly split between the federal government and the state.

Over half of the state's portion is in the form of in-kind support from the Department of Resources and Economic Development and the Community College System of New Hampshire, Pease said.

For information about training and classes, go here.