Like most problem-solvers, procurement professionals have a metaphorical toolbox that they reach into from time to time to assist in acquiring best value. In this article, we discuss one of the tools in the public procurement toolbox, the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). In case you haven’t utilized this tool before, let’s get you familiar with it! A guiding principle of public procurement is the maximization of competition. PTACs help to increase bid participation by working one-on-one with small businesses and assisting them in competing for government contracts.
PTACs make sure that a government receives the maximum amount of competition when it puts forth a request for proposals, information, tender, or quotations. The federal government mandates that a percentage of dollars spent on federal contracts must be awarded to small businesses each year to expand competition and encourage local economic development. According to this article by the Federation of American Scientists in 2017, $31 billion or 30 percent of small business dollars in federal contracts, were awarded without competition as sole source contracts. As procurement professionals, we need more small business options in our bidding pool. PTACs are a convenient, free tool that can offer help to small businesses who need to prequalify for government contracts. This can be a useful resource to refer small businesses to so you can expand your pool of qualified vendors.
Authorized in 1985 and administered by the Department of Defense’s Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), the Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) was created to grow the number of businesses capable of participating in the government marketplace. The PTAP program gave birth to the PTAC state-specific offices. PTAC offices are financed by the DLA with matching funds from state and local governments and non-profit organizations. As of 2019, there are 94 PTACs and over 300 local offices nationwide. The single goal of each PTAC is to assist every business that comes through their office with becoming eligible to compete for a government contract. PTACs are easily accessible and commonly found across the country – if you need their services, you can definitely find them!
Helping small businesses compete for government contracts is the ultimate end goal for PTACs, but they also offer many other services to small businesses. Recently, I sat down with Kentucky State Director, Darrall Henderson, Ph.D., to talk about what PTACs offer. Dr. Henderson made it clear that PTACs weren’t just for preparing businesses for federal contracts, but for state and local governments too! “We present the small business with how the government does business and help them prepare to get a contract.” Imagine my excitement when Dr. Henderson went on, “…PTACS love to be contacted by procurement officials. We [PTACs] are always trying to find what the pain points of public procurement are, and then we make it our job to inform the clients what they can do to address these pain points and offer their solutions to government problems.” This means that procurement officials and PTACs can work together to make the procurement process more inclusive and efficient.
As public procurement officers, we know that competition is necessary to obtain best value. Utilizing your state or local PTAC could be a huge benefit to the central procurement office by increasing the number of small businesses in the bidding pool. Governments have technical prequalifications that must be met before a business can compete in the pool for a contract and PTACs can make this process more efficient! Dr. Henderson informed me that last year alone, Kentucky’s PTAC conducted over 120 in-person and webinar trainings. PTACs offer one-on-one counseling services that cater to start-up business needs. They also work with their clients to research the market and develop a custom strategy that fits the business’s capabilities and prepare small and local businesses for government contracts.
Working with a PTAC is a win-win-win situation. The state wins by maximizing competition, the business wins by being government contract ready, and the citizenry wins because their dollars are invested back into the local community/state. If you think back to our Keeping Up with the Economy post on Pulse, you already understand that utilizing these small and local businesses is a great way to boost local economic development! Utilizing your state or local PTAC amplifies competition, allows for maximizing competition, and invests in the local and state economy.
PTACs are a wonderful resource for all CPOs. Have you tried reaching out to your local PTAC? Need help finding them? Visit this website and select your state in the drop-down menu to get the contact information for your local PTAC. If you have worked with a PTAC before, tell us about what it was like in the comments!