A report commissioned by the Geosynthetic Materials Assciation has opened up a government relations program and the first organized lobbying effort for the geosynthetics industry.
By Andrew Aho
In January 2006, the Geosynthetic Materials Association (GMA), contracted with a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C., to produce a report on the opportunities available to GMA and its members in the government marketplace. The firms of Whitmer & Worrall and Kemp Partners (led by former Congressman Jack Kemp) produced an 85-page report entitled Government Marketplace Opportunity Report for the GMA.
GMA was so impressed by the report and excited about the opportunities presented in it that the firms were hired to implement a government relations program, the first organized lobbying effort for the geosynthetics industry.
In aggressively pursuing the federal government marketplace, GMA is sharing some of the methodologies and strategies outlined in the report. Following are some highlights from the report.
There are two primary ways to accomplish the pursuit of federal contracts. The first method is a lobbying government relations approach, in which a company or organization hires government relations consultants to lobby or offer advice on how to obtain federal contracts.
The second method is a more conventional approach, using government-approved registries such as Dun & Bradstreet. Most companies and organizations are probably quite familiar with this approach.
Lobbying involves the use of personal relationships with contacts in federal- and state-level offices and congressional and White House contacts to establish a company’s or organization’s presence with decision-makers, creating business opportunities for your company and/or industry. When considering this approach, it is important to keep these points in mind:
- Segment the government marketplace. The government marketplace can at times appear massive and overwhelming for outside interests seeking to win government business. It is strongly recommended that your potential marketplace be segmented by distinct areas of opportunity. However, it is not enough to identify only those federal agencies that handle business or contracts that cover your company’s lines of business. You must go a step further by identifying the congressional committees that have oversight and funding responsibilities for these target agencies of interest to you. By qualifying target agencies of interest, overlapped with congressional committee oversight, you have the ability to incorporate into your strategy the possibility of leveraging Capitol Hill to influence outcomes at the agency level.
- Develop congressional champions. Too many companies and organizations converge on Washington without ever appreciating the importance and value of recruiting congressional champions. There are several key reasons why members of Congress might become champions of a company or cause. A common motivator is a company operating in a member’s district or state in which they represent their constituent interests. Match your employer base to congressional districts. Members that represent your employee base should be considered potential champions. Members of Congress are also willing to champion a company’s cause based on the committees they serve and specific areas of policy interest.
- Sell “best practices.” Capitol Hill and federal agency decision-makers react positively to private-sector “best practices and leaders” in the marketplace. A company does not have to be the largest in its industry, but it is important to stress innovative approaches and solutions that make that company a leader. Following the process of segmenting the government marketplace and recruiting key congressional champions, it is highly recommended that a company target the government marketplace with its best practices sales approach.
- Manage relationships. The government marketplace is a large and complex network that involves many different interests and relationships. Often, improper factors such as conflict-of-interest or blatant favoritism can block a vendor who is pursuing a government contact. These can be avoided by building relationships throughout the network.
Companies seeking federal contracts must first register through different federal and state agency-recommended registries for contracting opportunities and availability. There is a set of registries through which a vendor must register to receive federal agency contracts. This is a federally recommended, three-step process for pursuing federal contracts:
- Register for a Dun and Bradstreet (D&B) number. The D&B D-U-N-S number is a 9-digit identification sequence that provides unique identifiers for single business entities, while linking corporate family structures together. B&D links the B&D D-U-N-S numbers of parents, subsidiaries, headquarters and branches on more than 64 million corporate family members around the world. To register or for more information: www.dnb.com/us/index.asp.
- Register with the Central Contract Registry (www.ccr.gov) Once you have your D-U-N-S number, you will need to register your company with CCR. CCR is the primary vendor database for the U.S. government. CCR collects, validates, stores, and disseminates data in support of agency acquisition missions.
- Visit Federal Business Opportunities (www.fedbizopps.com) Managed by the General Services Administration, this Web site allows businesses to sign up for e-mail notification of open contracts related to specified fields. Commercial vendors can search, monitor, and retrieve opportunities solicited by the entire federal contracting community. Vendors are encouraged to register, after which they receive electronic notification when procurement notices are posted.
Companies seeking general information about government contracting resources may want to consider the following:
- The Business Partner Network (www.bpn.gov) BPN is the single source for vendor data for the federal government. It’s a search mechanism that provides unprecedented views into several key data bases across federal agencies.
- U. S. Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov) The SBA posts notices for subcontracting opportunities; contractors and subcontractors post notices, thereby increasing competition for contracts.
- Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (www.aptac-us.org/new) These assistance centers offer an understanding of the requirements of government contracting and instructions on how to obtain and successfully fulfill federal, state and local government contracts.
- Disaster Contractors Network (www.dcnonline.org/choosestate.cfm) This network is a virtual organization of construction-related associations, state and federal emergency management organizations, and regulatory agencies. The purpose of DCN is to facilitate information-sharing and resource-matching among government, the construction community, and home and business owners before, during and after disasters strike.
- National Emergency Resource Registry (www.nerr.gov) The NERR, through the Department of Homeland Security, assists the coordination efforts between resources that are needed and the resources that are available from the private and public sectors. If your company has resources that can be made available to the response agencies, list them in the Resource Registry.