“President Obama and DOT Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood recognize that small businesses are really the central part of this economy and it’s about helping as many as possible get off the ground,” says Brandon Neal, director of the DOT’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization.
Not all opportunities within the DOT are funded through the Recovery Act. Through the Small Business Innovation Research program (www.volpe.dot.gov/sbir), agencies can submit topic statements for transportation-related research. Small businesses can turn in proposals to address the topic and the best proposals are selected for contract awards.
Though much is available through the DOT and their respective agencies, Anthony W. Robinson, president of the Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund ( www.mbeldef.org) in Largo, Maryland, suggests more can be done for small businesses. “Promotion that these opportunities exist is a start,” he says. “And because of issues with access to capital, there needs to be bonding assistance and prompt pay.” Robinson also explains that because the responsibility of distributing the stimulus dollars falls on the state DOTs close monitoring is needed.
Heighten your chances at gaining Recovery Act funds through the DOT with these tools:
Become a Disadvantaged Business: Read “The Contender” (Enterprise, July 2009) for the basics such as registering with the Central Contractor Registration database and working with Procurement and Technical Assistance Centers, which assist minority and women-owned businesses in marketing to the government.
You can also register for the disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) program (www.osdbu.dot.gov/DBEProgram), which strives to increase participation by minority business enterprises in state and local procurements, through your state’s Uniform Certification Program (UCP).
Utilize DOT Resources: You can consult the DOT’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) for assistance throughout the procurement process. Take with you a one-page capability statement for submission. The OSDBU offers a National Information Clearinghouse (NIC) where you can receive counseling on how to market the DOT for contracting opportunities and the appropriate points of contact at the federal, state, and local levels. Speak with a DOT small business specialists who can help identify procurement opportunities under each DOT agency. For contact information, see Contracting with DOT: A Guide for Small Businesses (www.osdbu.dot.gov/documents/CDOT_July_15_2009.pdf).
Construct Your Own Recovery Act: Check out the DOT procurement forecast (www.osdbu.dot.gov/Procurement) for information on anticipated procurements of more than $100,000. It is issued the first day of each fiscal year, which is Oct.1. You can search by quarter, industry category, operating administration, and key words. The DOT offers a purchase card program, which lists micropurchases up to $3,000. You can go directly to the supplier or service providers for the micropurchase.
This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue of Black Enterprise.com.