Seeking Out Local and State Government Contracts

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You might not have considered running for local or state office, but politics can have a noticeable allure for IT workers, especially independents who seek local and state government contracts.

And this phenomenon is not limited to IT, said Tim Riley, director of marketing for GovernmentBids.com, an online service that provides customers with access to bids, awarded contracts and information about upcoming opportunities at all levels of government.

“Government in and of itself is where a lot of people want to do business because it’s always going to be there, and you know they’re going to pay the bills,” Riley said. “There’s a lot of infrastructure, and the potential is strong in almost every area.”

Further, Riley said the amount of money the government sets aside for bids and contracts is substantial. For 2006, it is estimated to be between $2.4 trillion and $2.6 trillion.

With a portion of that money being allotted to IT-related workers, there is a great deal of interest for independents to seek out local and state government bids. But actually embarking on that process might seem daunting — although the government has a good reputation for dependability in regard to infrastructure work and doling out payment, there exists the stereotype of bureaucracy and red tape.

Riley said, in addition to knowing what it is you want to do, the first step is to do some homework.

“One of the starting points is to know what is being sought and what projects are out there,” he said. “A lot of it starts with knowing where the opportunities are. To play the game, you need to know where the game is.”

And it’s no surprise that Riley recommends the Internet as a means of doing so.

Technology’s boon is not limited to job-seekers, though. Riley said online resources have simplified and streamlined the bidding process for government, as well. “Most government agencies of all sizes use the Internet to get their bid information and needs out to a much larger audience,” he said. “For an independent contractor, the advantage to this is the ability to match their area of expertise with a governmental agency that has a need.” Further, because IT work doesn’t necessarily require face-to-face interaction or on-site representation, geography no longer is such a limit for independent workers seeking government bids.

“It kind of levels the playing field,” Riley said. “You can find those opportunities without being in their backyard.”

And while people who seek work at a specific agency in a certain city or state can monitor those governments’ Web sites for job opportunities — and Riley said there are more than 15,000 agency Web sites — there are other sites, including GovernmentBids.com, that allow job-seekers to tailor their searches to their needs and interests. “The power of the Internet and the power of technology have made it so much easier to find those needles in the haystack,” Riley said.

Additionally, IT workers can maximize the opportunities available through the government by contacting the Office of Small Business within their state or the state in which they want to work.

“One of the nice things about government contracting, there’s always a small amount set aside for small business,” Riley said. “Government recognizes the value of small businesses and contractors, and small states are more well-known for being champions of small business.” Despite the power of the Internet and all the potential doors it can open, Riley said it’s important to follow through and not hide behind a computer.

“There’s still power in face-to-face interaction,” he said. “And once you find the job opportunities, you have to effectively compete for them. You need to know how to write a good proposal, etc.”

Additionally, Riley recommends fortifying your credentials so that you have solid professional foundation.

“I think it’s very similar to marketing yourself for private entities, and that includes being known in your field. Having a good track record is always a good thing,” he said. “Word-of-mouth and reputation still go a long way.”

Riley also recommends joining professional associations and seizing every opportunity to network.

“A serious effort in the professional vein is important, and the ability to meet and greet or any communications via open houses or professional luncheons are great,” Riley said. “People need to do business with people. You need them to know you.”

Again, as with any contracting or bidding, there are certain steps to follow.

“The basics are to get your foot in the door both electronically and in reality and be ready to move and position yourself as opportunities come up,” Riley said. “Government wants to know they’re making a solid choice, so positioning yourself professionally is a good thing.”

And even if the first few stabs at landing a local or state government contract don’t work out, Riley said most there likely will be many more coming down the pipeline. “The trend is very positive for continued growth for the next few years,” he said. “Government is an area rich in opportunities.”

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