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Top Story:  OCC Technical Assistance Events Clarify Contracting Process


By Chrisalyn Santos
Public Affairs Operations

For minority- and women-owned businesses as well as small businesses that are interested in doing business with the federal government, knowing how to navigate the complexities of government contracting and its unique terminology can be invaluable.

Trent speaks to business representatives who attended the most recent vendor technical assistance event.

Trent speaks to business representatives who attended the most recent vendor technical assistance event.

Since February 2012, the OCC’s Office of Minority and Women and Minority Inclusion (OMWI) has been helping these businesses demystify contracting terms and processes by hosting vendor technical assistance events.

These events go beyond providing businesses with assistance for opportunities with the OCC, according to Rhonda Trent, OMWI Business Procurement Analyst. “The events give the businesses in attendance the technical expertise and advice in order to do business with any agency in the federal government, “she explains. “It’s not often that companies are invited inside of a government entity and have a contracting officer give you tips and advice.”

In addition to learning the terminology and procedures involved with government contracting, Trent says that businesses at the vendor assistance events learn about becoming a prime [primary contractor] with the government, subcontracting, and teaming. “The events are also valuable for the networking,” she says. “It may seem that the businesses are competitors, but in order to be successful, you need to partner and cooperate.”

According to Madelynn Orr, OMWI Alternative Dispute Resolution Program Specialist , these events satisfy a provision of the Dodd – Frank Act, which requires OMWI offices to provide technical assistance and information to minority- and women-owned businesses.

Cofield addresses with business representatives at the vendor technical assistance event.

Cofield addresses with business representatives at the vendor technical assistance event.

The events also help connect the OCC with small businesses, which can in turn assist the agency in meeting contract award goals that are set annually by the Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Small Business Administration. Trent says that the OCC is consistently meeting or exceeding the small business award goals.

Inside the event

During the most recent vendor technical assistance event, “Successfully Navigating the Alphabet Soup,” which was held in the summer, approximately 60 representatives from minority- and women-owned business as well as small businesses came to the OCC to learn more about government contracts and to network with each other. OMWI Director Joyce Cofield told the attendees that the OCC awards approximately $140 million each fiscal year. “I’m proud that in procurement, we’ve been paying attention [to diversity],” Cofield said. “About 60 percent of our procurement dollars are going to small businesses, and we want to continue this trend.”

During the event, speakers emphasized that it is vital for businesses to respond to Requests for Information published on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site. The speakers also discussed contracting terms and processes, such as multiple award schedules, government-wide acquisition contracts, and multiple agency contracts. In addition, the event featured a panel of business representatives from companies of various sizes who discussed their experiences contracting with the federal government.

While the information presented at these events is invaluable, the networking opportunities share an equal weight of importance to businesses attending these events.

Both Diane Nicks, Owner of Paperwork Management & Training Consulting Services and Sandra Thomas, President and CEO of Selective Professional Services, LLC, , attended their first vendor technical assistance event this summer. Nicks called the event wonderful, noting that it was an opportunity to build relationships between the OCC and the businesses. “The face-to-face interaction is beneficial,” she says. Thomas echoed Nicks’s comments, saying that businesses that have the time should attend these events to learn about the contracting process.

Last Updated: 10/21/2014