If you want to do business with the federal government, prepare to learn another language.
"The government, especially the military, loves to speak in acronyms, and you'll have to get used to that if you deal with them," said Joe Beaulieu, a government contracting counselor with Georgia Tech's Procurement Assistance Center.
Beaulieu was one of several experts who spoke Tuesday at Dalton City Hall in Dalton, Ga., at a conference on helping small firms do business with the federal government.
The Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center is funded by the Defense Logistics Agency to help small businesses navigate the government bureaucracy.
"We teach you how to do business with the federal government," Beaulieu said, noting that the center's aid is free. "Your tax dollars have already paid for it."
To become a "customer" of the assistance center, a small business owner or manager simply has to go to http://gtpac.org and register to take one of its introductory classes. The classes are free and take place across the state and online.
In addition to teaching and counseling, the center offers its clients a number of databases they can search for opportunities to do business with various government agencies as well as the opportunity to be mentored by other small business owners who have successfully done business with the government.
Kimberlie Mason, president of Dalton's Quality Staffing, has been a client of the assistance center for about two years.
"I'd really recommend getting in touch with them. In fact, I was just thinking there are two people I should have told to come here today just so they could learn what Georgia Tech will do for free," she said.
Rebecca Vanover, regional small business development specialist with the General Services Administration (GSA), said there are many opportunities for small companies to do business with the federal government. The GSA manages property and buildings the federal government owns and leases and acts as the contracting agent for other agencies.
Vanover said the GSA has a goal of doing 30 percent of its business this year with small firms. It has additional goals of doing business with particular types of small firms, such as women-owned businesses and veteran-owned businesses. Vanover said that other agencies have similar goals and must report annually to Congress on their efforts to meet those goals.
In addition, large contractors are required to do part of their sub-contracting with small firms.
But Vanover warned that small firms have to know the rules better than the agencies themselves in order to successfully navigate the bureaucracy.
"You can't rely on them to guide you," she said.
Terri Denison, district director for the Small Business Administration, spoke of some of the aid that is available from that agency, such as loan guarantees and coaching and training.
The event was organized by U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger. Graves said the people of Northwest Georgia and the Dalton area know just how important small business is to the economy and how important it is to creating jobs.
"We can lead the way, and this is a great place to start," he said.
The Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce and the Dalton-Whitfield County Joint Development Authority will host a free workshop for small business owners and entrepreneurs on Wednesday, April 18, from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center.
Registration is required. Individuals can register by visiting www.daltonchamber.org and clicking under Upcoming Events or by calling (706) 278-7373. The registration deadline is Thursday.
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