With the federal government pumping in huge amounts of money for Sandy rebuilding projects, it’s an ideal time for small companies to seek contracts to get a piece of the action.
But a lot of them don’t know where to start.
The Small Business Administration is hoping to change that by connecting New Jersey executives to the people who can help steer them through the bureaucracy surrounding contracting opportunities.
Shaun Donovan, Housing and Urban Development secretary and chair of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, said the government is trying to “make those connections between the companies that are looking for subcontractors, and the government agencies that are looking for subcontractors, and the small businesses that are looking” for a piece of the work.
Donovan, who spoke at a matchmaker session last week in Newark to connect big and small companies, said “we miss a big opportunity” if contracts go to big out-of-state business, as opposed to New Jersey firms.
“Because then, the money we are investing does not help to boost the small businesses in the community,” he said. “The idea is first of all making sure that a significant share of the money from those contracts has to go to small businesses.”
MZM Construction and Management is the kind of company the government wants getting this work. CEO Marjorie Perry said she got $2 million in Sandy beach replenishment contracts from the Army Corps of Engineers, but for her company, this sort of procurement is old hat.
A small business looking to break into contracting must be relentless and persistent, she said.
“It takes a lot of relationship building — somebody knowing somebody who gives you somebody else who gives you that small contract,” she said. “Your best practices are what are going to differentiate you in today’s environment.”
That means attending events like last week’s, held at the New Jersey Institute of Technology: “You need to show your face so they (contracting officers) know that you are still available. You have to be dogged,” she said.
About half the 450 or so attendees at the Aug. 7 event were small-business owners. The event also attracted large business, like AT&T and IBM, that hire small businesses as subcontractors on big government jobs.