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May 24, 2013 — A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.
By Brett Housholder, Wyoming Entrepreneur interim program manager
“I’ve heard government contracting can be a great way to supplement my business’s regular sales, but how do I know whether the government would even buy what I sell?” Scott, Casper
Government contracting can certainly be an effective way to increase sales and supplement a business, but some owners assume that the federal government does not buy what they sell. It might surprise you just how large and diverse the pool of government-procured goods and services really is. Smart business owners aren’t going to enter a new market without evidence that there’s an opportunity.
Fortunately, there are resources available that enable us to actually determine what the federal government buys, how much it buys, and what types of companies it buys from. There are two basic resources that can be used to find this information.
USA Spending (www.usaspending.gov). This website can be used to perform a quick search by keywords. Simply type in a keyword phrase and view the results on the following page. You also will have a map to click on individual states. Below the map, you’ll also find a list of past awarded contracts with the names of the companies that received them.
This gives you some outstanding competitive intelligence. If you know who is receiving contracts, you can do some research on them to compare your strengths and weaknesses. You also can use other search criteria on the right side of the results page to narrow it down even further (by government agency, for example).
Federal Procurement Data System (https://www.fpds.gov/). This website requires a log-in (free) and includes search features similar to those offered by USA Spending, and offers yet another resource for determining what sort of government market exists for your products or services.
While the numbers on these websites can’t be considered definitive proof of your potential success in the world of government contracting -- ultimate business success will always depend on reliable goods and services -- they can be a great way to test the waters to get an idea of what and how much the federal government actually buys, especially on a state-by-state basis.
A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at http://www.wyomingentrepreneur.typepad.com/blog/.
The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.