PTAP spells how-to for small biz

DLA idea has opened path into federal marketplace

An idea that took root at the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) in the mid-1980s to expand Defense Department contracting opportunities for small businesses has blossomed into a nationwide network known as the Procurement Technical Assistance Program.

The Virginia PTAP at the George Mason University Enterprise Center in Fairfax, Va., advises young companies that have innovative technologies to sell to the government. It also operates 29 small-business centers throughout the state and larger regional centers in Charlottesville and Hampton Roads.

“Think of us as a one-stop shop on how to do business at various levels,” said James Regan, the Virginia PTAP director.

The organization has built an enviable record of success since it became a statewide operation in October 2005 after 12 years as a regional center. Its clients had won $88.7 million in federal contracts as of March 31 and created or retained 5,880 jobs, Regan said.

PTAP centers exist in almost all states. Their client companies won $13.3 billion in federal contracts and created about 412,000 jobs in 2004, the last year for which Regan has data.

The program has helped fill a void for federal agencies, too, said Scott Denniston, small business director at the Department of Veterans Affairs. “Who’s [available] to teach people about federal contracting and grow these companies?” he asked.

Denniston refers veterans who want to start a tech-oriented business to PTAP. “It’s been a real successful marriage from our standpoint,” he said. VA officials have visited about 35 PTAP centers nationwide in an outreach program for small businesses, federal agencies and contractors in the area, he added.

The typical company that seeks PTAP assistance may have only one or two employees. Or it could be a business that has a fair amount of commercial experience and wants to enter the federal market, Regan said. “The bulk of the companies we deal with are in the services business.”

Regan estimated that about 60 percent of PTAP’s 1,500 active clients in Virginia are involved in management consulting, information technology, communications or support services. Some have been PTAP clients almost since its inception.

Elva Fong, president and chief executive officer of Enterprise Business

Solutions, first sought out the Virginia PTAP about 10 years ago when she wanted to expand her IT management company.

Fong said the PTAP resources and counseling were so helpful that today 90 percent of EBS’ contracts come from state and federal clients, including the Defense Information Systems Agency, the Army National Guard and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

Most services are free, but PTAP charges small fees for its more costly activities such as seminars.

The Virginia PTAP is funded by DLA, with money and in-kind contributions from George Mason University and the Center for Innovative Technology, a state-financed research and IT marketing facility.

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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