Doing Business with Uncle Sam

How do government agencies use auto rentals? Short-term vehicle rentals or leases often make sense for government agencies looking to save money. Agencies may rent cars for infrequent drivers, rather than taking on the cost of acquiring and maintaining vehicles in a motor pool.

Or agencies may need a vehicle to fill a particular need. For example, for undercover work, police departments sometimes use vehicles that blend in with those in the neighborhood, such as an import or a high-end car not normally found in government fleets.

According to the Alexandria, Va.-based Society of Government Travel Professionals, U.S. government travel represents a $28 billion market. From the United States Marine Corps and the FBI to state universities and the local parks and recreation department, government agencies can be a good source of business for rental car companies of all sizes.

Where Do You Start?
“When you run your own business, you are involved in so many daily and long-range planning events that procuring government business is often too daunting, and placed on the backburner until the date for filing has passed,” says Sharon Faulkner, a Thrifty Car Rental franchisee and president of Faulkner Leasing Co. LLC in Albany, N.Y.

Contract Listings & Databases
Federal Business Opportunities:
Managed by the GSA and designated as the single source for federal government procurement opportunities that exceed $25,000. Vendors can use the system to find upcoming contracts without registering.

Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS):
Identifies who bought what, from whom, for how much, allowing vendors to find potential customers.

Where in Federal Contracting? (WIFCON):
Compiles links to federal solicitations; state and local governments; contracting acronyms and jargon; federal government e-malls, GWACS; state and local contracting alliances; as well as legal, personnel, regulations and events information.

However, the government is obligated to provide assistance in learning about its contract procedures, and most branches and agencies are easily accessible on the Web.

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Web site should be one of the first Web sites company owners visit. Providing a wealth of information for vendors and contractors on how to market services to the federal government, the GSA site is also one of the gateways for getting your name out to travel buyers. A system called GSA Advantage! serves as an online marketplace for government employees shopping for services.

U.S. General Services Administration (GSA):
Click on “For Contractors and Vendors” for training, regulations, getting on a GSA schedule, how-to documents and e-tools for submitting bids and processing payment.
Online shopping and ordering system for federal government employees using GSA SmartPay purchase cards or GSA Activity Address Codes (AAC).

When researching government agencies online, one of the key words to look for is “procurement.” This term refers to departments within state or federal agencies that handle the distribution and acquisition of services for that agency.

“In New York, we have a program called the Procurement Outreach Program (POP),” Faulkner says. “It was developed by the Department of Small Business and it helps businesses to identify and understand how to successfully bid on federal, state and city contracts. They even have classes to help you procure this market segment as well as one-on-one counseling to prepare your bids.”

CONTINUED:  Doing Business with Uncle Sam
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