Doing Business with the Federal Government

by Jane Gustafson, ASID, and Sue Bowers, ASID

With the largest portfolio of leased office space in the nation, the federal government provides office space to more than a million federal workers and spends about $2 billion a year on goods and services. The Public Buildings Service (PBS), a part of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), manages 8,600 government-owned and leased buildings--including court houses, offices, border stations, data processing centers and historic custom houses, to name a few--totaling more than 354 million square feet of space in some 1,600 cities across the continental United States.  A number of buildings in this portfolio are in need of renovation and repair--representing a vast opportunity for designers and contractors of design services.

Opportunities Especially for Small Businesses
GSA places an especially high priority on attracting small, disadvantaged, minority-, women- and veteran-owned, and HUBZoned businesses.  Eighty percent of PBS services are contracted out, with a significant portion of the total funds allocated for these services going to small and disadvantaged businesses.  Many of the requests for proposals (RFPs) that are posted on www.FedBizOpps.gov, the single point-of-entry for federal procurement opportunities over $25,000, are specified as "small business set-asides," geared toward small and women-owned businesses.

The U.S. Small Business Administration provides small business certification for those firms that qualify. Applications for this certification are available at www.sba.gov or at any local SBA office.  Small Business Development Centers throughout the country also provide management, financial and planning support.  To find an SBDC office near you, use the locator map on the SBA Web site.

The Central Contractor Registration (CCR) is the primary registrant database for the U.S. federal government. Anyone (sole proprietors, corporations, partnerships and governmental organizations) desiring to do business with the federal government must register in CCR.  The CCR also maintains a Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) for government agencies.  Creating a profile in CCR and the DSBS and keeping it current ensures that your firm has access to federal contracting opportunities, especially those for small businesses. Entering your small business profile data into CCR allows you to populate the Small Business Administration's (SBA) Supplemental Pages, known as DSBS, where your business information and capabilities statements can be viewed by contracting officers, large prime contractors, and the general public.

As of July 8, 2009, GSA has added interior design services to two of its Schedules under its Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) Express program created to expedite the contracting process for qualified vendors of certain goods and services.  The two Schedules are 71 I Office Furniture (71-94) and 71 III Special Use Furniture (71-393). 

Finding Government Clients and Their Projects
Marketing of interior design services can be directed toward specific federal agencies, local municipalities or the government in general.  More than 51 agencies post data to www.FedBizOpps.gov, which is updated daily. In the Washington, D.C. area, 20 federal agencies fund and manage their own renovation work when budgeted under $5 million.  In addition, GSA has an Internet-based, electronic request for quotes (RFQ) system, e-Buy, that allows government buyers to request quotes for design services based on a specified scope of work.  For step-by-step instructions on how to get on this list, go to "Getting on Schedule" on the GSA Web site.

Publications such as Government Executive, a monthly business magazine serving senor executives and managers, and Military Times, which contains news and information for military personnel, also provide opportunities to advertise to specific markets.

Other helpful resources include GSA's Public Buildings Service Project Plan and the GSA Design and Construction Overview.

For more information, see "How GSA Helps Businesses" or contact the Small Business Support office that services your state.