New GSA schedule draws Web designers

The popularity of a new General Services Administration schedule for marketing and media relations - a schedule that also contains a category for World Wide Web design - has "exceeded expectations," with 10 companies already on the schedule and many more expected to be placed on it in coming months, a GSA official said last week.

"We've seen a whole lot of interest both from the contractor perspective and the federal agency perspective," said Jeffrey Koses, deputy director of GSA's Services Acquisition Center.

"Flood of Proposals"Koses said GSA rules barred him from revealing how many applications for the schedule he has received, but Janet Clarke, a senior consultant with Federal Sources Inc., a private clearinghouse for government contract information, said GSA received "a flood of proposals" to get on the schedule.

"They were overwhelmed," she said. "They weren't geared up for the influx they received."

The schedule, established in June, places a Web design category in the regular GSA schedule for the first time. Previously, businesses that wanted to perform Web design through GSA had to get placed on the information technology schedule. That schedule is geared more toward technical than marketing matters, but it did allow for Web design.

Koses said GSA decided to open the new schedule because "a number of federal agencies [were] expressing a need for different services in the marketing and media area, so the American public and other agencies understand what services they have to offer."

Danya International Inc., a Silver Spring, Md.-based health care consultancy that also designs Web sites, did not apply for the old IT schedule, but it is one of three companies within the new Web design category.

The emphasis in the new schedule, said company president Jeff Hoffman, "is more on designing Web sites that are more marketing- and media-related than IT-related or database-intensive."

Also, the Web design portion of the new schedule is open only to small businesses, while businesses of any size can win a place on the IT schedule. Danya International employs about 20 people.

Brian Landis, president of Silver Spring-based Capital Presentations & Design, said his six-employee Web design firm has done lots of work for the federal government in the past, but only through small purchase agreements totaling less than $2,000.

He leapt at the new schedule, he said, because it will allow him to get larger federal contracts. Already, his company's presence on the schedule has led to five bids for federal Web design services, he said.

The schedule "means that our current government clients as well as new clients can purchase these services with us without wasting their time having to get three bids and making sure everything is competitive," he said. "They can make a purchase order for up to $1 million without asking any questions."

But not every company that does Web design is interested in the new schedule. Jill Banks, president of McLean, Va.-based NewMedia Communications, has done Web development for several agencies through the IT schedule.

Getting onto the IT schedule was hard work, she said, and she does not want to repeat the labor to get onto another schedule for Web design "without knowing what the impact" of the new schedule will be.

Will agencies increasingly turn to the new schedule when they look for Web designers instead of searching through the IT schedule? That is the question Banks is waiting to have answered. For now, she will remain exclusively on the IT schedule.

Olga Grkavac, executive vice president of the Information Technology Association of America's Enterprise Solutions Division, echoed Banks in her assessment of the new schedule. Agencies already hire contractors to develop Web sites, and it is unclear what impact the new schedule will have on the volume of Web design work farmed out to vendors, she said.

If nothing else, she said, the new schedule symbolizes the growing importance of the Internet in government.

"It's certainly a recognition of the impact of the Internet," Grkavac said, "and it's making it easier for agencies to get this kind of expertise."

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