The United States Federal Government provides locations across the nation that educate businesses on government contracts, grants and accounting matters called Procurement Technical Assistance Centers; or better known as PTAC(s). While each of these locations offer tons of knowledge and opportunities to learn about government contracting, vendors are still frustrated for a number of reasons. Third party registration firms such as US Federal Contractor Registration are responsible for assisting over 70,000 businesses with their government registration and federal marketing. Every business must register in a number of different federal websites in order to begin bidding and winning government contracts. The following article discusses whether your business would be better off scheduling a meeting/training session at a PTAC Office or hiring a professional firm such as US Federal Contractor Registration.
PTAC Offices provide training information for businesses looking to self-register in System for Award Management (SAM registration)
Pros: Every PTAC office can provide a business with a good deal of free information and assistance. PTAC offices commonly carry marketing materials and basic instruction manuals for particular government procedures. The SAM registration is among some of the instructions a small business owner can pick up to learn more about the process. PTAC officials encourage businesses to schedule a time to come in and take a class to learn the proper ways to self register on their own.
Cons: PTAC officials cannot legally walk your business through the SAM registration. While every location can provide a wealth of knowledge to business owners every federal official is extremely limited on their level of assistance. PTAC officials can provide you with paperwork to teach yourself the proper etiquette for conducting the registration. However, they are not legally allowed to conduct any part of the actual government registration for you. This is considered a conflict of interest and can result in termination from their position. For example, it is against the law for a federal official to perform the System for Award Management registration (SAM registration) for a business. More specifically the Reps & Certs section. Businesses looking to hire a professional to conduct the SAM Registration for their business use US Federal Contractor Registration.
“Our PTAC Office provides assistance to businesses who wish to learn more about the SAM registration process and how to get started. We also help businesses with questions about federal set-asides such as SDVOSB, WOSB and 8(a) to name a few. Under the law, we are not actually allowed to physically register a business due to legal reasons and not to show favoritism to one business over another. That being said we will still sit down with them and provide tips on how to become registered. Then they can go home and review their registration and submit it to the federal government. If a business cannot make time to come into one of our offices I can understand why they would employ a service to conduct their SAM registration, such as a third party registration firm.” - Jane Dowgwillo, the State of Florida PTAC Program Manager
Every PTAC Office has between 2 to 10 Contracting Specialists
Pros: Every PTAC Office has between 2 to 10 on-staff professionals who schedule a time during the week to meet with your business. Businesses must schedule a meeting in advance to sit down with a PTAC official in order to discuss their business efforts in government contracting. These meetings take place only on weekdays (office closed on Saturday & Sunday) and must be booked in advance due to a high volume of requests. These meetings will provide businesses with a basic understanding of the road ahead and how to get their business started in the federal marketplace.
Cons: Yes, some offices can have upward of 10 officials working. However, some offices have as little as 2 officials that are assigned to assist all the businesses in several counties of a state. Some PTAC representatives are in charge of looking after thousands of businesses in certain states. This can total up to hundreds of thousands of businesses asking for help from as little as 2 PTAC officials. These meetings can be several hours long and sometimes overwhelm a business new to government contracting. Businesses that operate only on the weekdays have a hard time ever visiting one of these locations due to their strict work hours. Some PTAC Offices even struggle with 10 officials assisting an entire state.
On a side note, certain PTAC locations from time to time will shut down. Many PTAC locations are in state colleges and universities. If the location of higher learning decides too much funding is being devoted to the PTAC office and funding is needed elsewhere in the school they will shut down the PTAC. This then places even more pressure on neighboring PTAC offices and increases the workload for existing offices. PTAC offices closing only make it harder for businesses to make an appointment.
“Third party registration firms (US Federal Contractor Registration) that register businesses in System for Award Management are still a relatively new industry, which is why I understand why some businesses would not understand their service. Here at our Florida PTAC Office, we try to assist as many businesses as possible on a daily basis. However, when you only have an office of 10 people trying to aid an entire state with procurement and registration needs, it becomes difficult trying to make an appointment for every business to come in. These third party registration firms have many redeeming qualities. I fully understand and recognize why a business would want to use a third party registration firm especially if they would like someone else to perform the registration; or cannot make an appointment to come into one of our offices. I have heard of businesses using these types of services and have been very pleased with the result.” - Jane Dowgwillo, the State of Florida PTAC Program Manager
PTAC Offices offer free training events/meetings to small business owners
Pros: Every PTAC office will provide a business a 1 to 4 hour meeting that must be booked in advance. These one-on-one meetings provide the business owner with an introduction to government contracting and much needed point in the right direction. Every PTAC official will also suggest business owners take part in the free PTAC Training Events. These training events take place on weekdays only and usually range between 2 to 5 days in length (depending on the topic). Business owners that would like to personally bid on every contact and conduct all of the registrations themselves always choose to use PTAC Training Events. Some of the topics covered at these events include: Introduction to Government Contracting, Small Business Certifications, Navigating SAM, Doing Business with the GSA, Contract Accounting, Response to RFPs, and Subcontracting. Businesses can go online to the PTAC Office’s website to register for these training courses.
Cons: Anyone getting started in government contracting for the first time can tell you right away there is a lot of information to learn. Not every business has time to sit down with a PTAC advisor or attend a training session for several hours on a weekday and absorb every bit of information. PTAC officials also encourage you to take these classes before you register in the SAM registration, which can set back your business months before you begin winning actual government contracts. Most businesses would rather use a faster route and pay a third party registration firm like US Federal Contractor Registration to conduct the required government registration paperwork. Businesses that have time to take these long courses during the week can use PTAC. Busy businesses that are looking to get started immediately use US Federal Contractor Registration to get registered, begin marketing, and start winning government contracts.
“We tell clients they can use a third party registration firm (US Federal Contractor Registration) if they have a lot of hang ups, multiple problems, or do not have the time to use our resources and register on their own. We can work with them for a full year and help a business, but there is only so much we can do. Businesses may want to use a third party registration firm if they don’t mind paying and don’t have the time or the knowledge to complete the registration themselves.” - PTAC Program Manager Kely Ford of the NW Louisiana PTAC
Unfortunately, most PTAC officials are forced to only recommend their own services. Some PTAC officials have even admitted to being reprimanded for suggesting other services. Sadly, the government does not recognize any private industry firms that can more efficiently help businesses win government contracts and get registered. That is why so few PTAC representatives have been vocal on their support of third party registration firms like US Federal Contractor Registration despite the billions of dollars they have helped small businesses win.
However from time to time there will be some PTAC officials that will recommend third party registration firms to business owners in the case that a business:
*Does not have free time on weekdays to learn the process
* Wants to hire a professional to conduct the registration, marketing, create bid proposals, etc
* Continues to have issues with their registration (migration or errors)
Feels comfortable having a professional firm handle all of their federal documents; much like hiring an accounting firm to perform yearly taxes.
We would like to thank all of the PTAC officials that conducted phone interviews with GovernmentContractingTips.com to receive a balanced viewpoint on PTAC Offices vs. third party registration firms/US Federal Contractor Registration.