HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (May 17, 2013) – The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of Alabama in Huntsville is something of a hidden gem. Most outside of the small business community are not aware of the valuable services it provides to start-ups both locally and across the country. And even less know about the SBDC’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), a specialty program that helps businesses who work with local, state, and federal government agencies.
But for the 1000 or so companies that rely on the SBDC and PTAC, the secret has long been out. “We see more businesses interested in government sales because of our proximity to Redstone Arsenal,” said procurement counselor (and UAH alumna) Mary Jane Fleming. “Each month we average 10 to 15 new companies to our center who may be start-ups, new to government contracting, or already contracting with state and federal government.”
And that number is sure to go up now that Fleming, fellow procurement counselor (and fellow UAH alumna) Holley DeGroat, and SBDC director Foster Perry recently completed certification training for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Verification Assistance Program (VAP).
The VAP is designed to decrease the risk of denial to service-disabled veteran-owned or veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs or VOSBs) applying for certification from the Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE), which in turn determines a company’s eligibility for SDVOSB and VOSB programs.
It’s all about limiting your competition, and this is a differentiator.
Mary Jane Fleming
PTAC procurement counselor
“It’s all about limiting your competition, and this is a differentiator,” said Fleming. “So if a small business owner comes to see us, and they’re identified as a veteran or service-disabled veteran, then we can educate them on how the verification process can increase their marketability.”
Even better, she continued, “if we can catch them before they start their business, we can tell them how to organize it with the regulations in mind. Then, when they submit their documentation for certification by the CVE, they can get it right the first time.”
Fleming and DeGroat have assisted SDVOSBs and VOSBs with verification in the past, but by becoming certified and thus more fluent in the program’s regulations, DeGroat said they can “lessen the amount of time it takes them to get through the process and increase the number of approvals.”
Nevertheless, there are still some companies that don’t want to go through the process. “They don’t think it’s useful because the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs isn’t their customer,” said Fleming. “But it may help when marketing to other agencies and large prime contractors, too, knowing that the company’s ownership and management has already been verified.” And given that the counseling services offered by the PTAC are free, she continued, “it’s a good time to have a first visit or a follow-up visit.”
Just be sure you schedule an appointment, since their schedule is about to get a whole lot busier. Said Fleming, “To the best of my knowledge, at this time, we are the only business counselors in our area who have completed the CVE verification training!”
Foster Perry, SBDC director
Mary Jane Fleming, PTAC procurement counselor
Holley DeGroat, PTAC procurement counselor
UAH’s Small Business Development Center provides free professional assistance and direction to pre-venture businesses, small business owners, and managers in the areas of feasibility studies, developing a business plan, licensing, marketing, business management, taxes, accounting, and human resources.
As a specialty program of the SBDC, the Procurement Technical Assistance Center provides free professional assistance to small businesses interested in doing business with state, federal, and local governments in the areas of determining suitability for government contracting, registration and certifications, procurement research, networking, identifying bid opportunities, developing a capability statement, marketing to the government, and understanding federal regulations.