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Workshop attendees at UTPA learn about government contracting process
By Gail Fagan, Public Affairs Representative
381-2741
Posted: 04/21/2008
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Small business owners from not only South Texas but from as far away as Georgia joined faculty and staff members at The University of Texas-Pan American April 16-17 to learn how to successfully identify and pursue government contract opportunities with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The two-day workshop, titled “Preparing and Submitting Government Contract Proposals,” is a joint initiative of HHS and the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) to train Minority Serving Institutions and minority-owned small businesses to become familiar with the processes and procedures associated with government contracting. RGF Consulting Corporation (RGFCC), located in Maryland, was contracted by HHS to conduct the training conference, which was hosted by the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects (ORSP) at UTPA.


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Participating in a two-day, government contracting workshop hosted by UTPA April 16-17 and co-sponsored by the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), who contracted with RGF Consulting Corporation (RGFCC) to conduct the workshop were left to right Cassandra Ford, presenter, RGFCC; Clarence Randall Jr., OSDBU; Teneshia G. Alston, HSS; Deborah Walker-Sewell, RGFCC; Dr. Wendy Lawrence-Fowler, UTPA vice president for Research and Sponsored Projects; Felicia Gaston, presenter, F.M. Gaston Associates; Theresa Bailey, UTPA director of Sponsored Projects; and Robert Flowers Jr., presenter and RGFCC president/CEO.
According to Robert Flowers Jr., president/CEO of RGFCC, HHS alone has available $14 billion per year in contracts, an amount second only to the U.S. Department of Defense. Its product and service needs as found on FedBizOpps (www.fbo.gov) – one of a number of federal contracts resource sites – range widely from medical supplies such as flu vaccines to research and development to the construction of facilities. All contracts $25,000 and above must be publically announced.

He explained that there are three major processes to learn in doing business with the government and specifically with HHS – acquisition/procurement, technical proposal writing and crafting compliant cost proposals, all of which were covered in the workshop. The 80 workshop participants also had the opportunity to meet and network in order to stimulate collaborations and joint contract proposals and subcontracting.

While the effort requires commitment and a thorough knowledge of your business and its capabilities, Flowers said it is worth it to provide a “new stream of revenue” to small businesses and Minority Serving Institutions.

“Last year The Baltimore Sun reported that Johns Hopkins University is the second largest government contractor in the state of Maryland behind Lockheed Martin and their take in 2006 was $908 million in contracts,” he said. “That’s big business for schools.”

Charles B. Randall Jr., an OSDBU senior advisor from Washington, D.C. said his agency wants to reach out through the workshops to encourage more bids from small and diversified businesses.

“We have performance goals driven by law,” he said, adding that a certain percentage of federal agency contracts each year are to go to small businesses in a number of categories of ownership – disadvantaged, women-owned, HUB (Historically Underutilized Business) Zone, and service-disabled/veteran.

Dr. Wendy Lawrence-Fowler, UTPA vice provost for Research, encouraged attendees to ask questions and to get to know one another.

“As a region, statewide and nationally, we can work together to find solutions to problems. These are opportunities available but also needed,” she said.

As an assistant professor at UTPA in mechanical engineering, Dr. Dumitru Caruntu attended the workshop with an interest in mechanical research opportunities.

“I am working in biomechanics and vibration, so this would be an important part of my proposal work. You have to convince them (government) that you can do an honest and good job. If you get a contract and don’t perform, you are not going to get a second one,” he said.

René Treviño, marketing director of Probado Technologies Corporation, an IT services company out of Corpus Christi, said his company had already written successful proposals as a prime contractor based on past experience and “street” knowledge but had never had any formal training. He was particularly looking forward to learning more about the cost proposal component.

“This workshop is bridging some of those little gaps or questions we have had – how to handle this situation or how do we address this issue,” he said. “The workshop is very professionally delivered – from the speakers, to the facilities, to the deliverables you get.”

For more information, contact Theresa Bailey, director of Sponsored Projects, at 956/384-5004 or e-mail tbailey@utpa.edu. You can also learn more by logging on to www.utpa.edu/orsp.