Helping businesses find, win and perform on government contracts • maineptac.org
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What is "Bonding" and Do I Need it?
Bryan Wallace, Senior Procurement Counselor

While counseling clients, the subject of bonding frequently comes up and I am often surprised at the number of people who don’t fully realize what it is. So, I’ll begin by stating what a bond is not. As applied to public works and the construction industry, a bond is NOT an insurance policy. Within public works and construction a bond is a guarantee that the contractor who provides the bond will meet the contract provisions and deliver a project for the owner.
There are three (3) common types of bonds:
  1. Bid Bond: This bond guarantees that the low bidder will sign the contract awarded to them for the price they submitted. It will accompany the contractor’s bid proposal.
  2. Performance Bond: This bond guarantees the owner that the contractor will build the job per plans and specs for the price stated in their bid proposal.
  3. Payment Bond: This bond guarantees the contractor will pay all; subcontractors, suppliers, and workers - the proper payments as required. It is usually required/issued along with a performance bond.
Qualifying for bonding is a complicated process, but if you want a contract that involves public works and/or construction, you will need it. Have questions on bonds? Ask your local PTAC Counselor.
Our Commitment Hasn't Change
Dana Delano, Procurement Counselor

2020 is slowly grinding down to an end and with it anticipation of a new and exciting 2021! We have seen many changes over the past year, but one thing that has not changed is Maine PTAC’s commitment to you, our clients and partners, with providing valuable and exceptional service in anything government contracting-related.
As we reflect on the past year and look forward to a new one, we are excited to provide you with new exceptional training tools and webinars. We learned that they do not have to last 60-90 minutes to be effective. Our clients are busy and if we can provide informative webinars in a 30-45 minute time span, that is the direction to go. Deeper topics have been requested and we are now looking at more specialized topics, such as ‘Navigating the Federal Acquisition Regulations’, ‘Understanding the Buy American Act and Trade Agreement Act’ and ‘Intro to Contract Protest and Disputes’. All topics companies should at least be familiar with. We are always interested in hearing from you concerning topics that directly affect your business.
As we look ahead, one thing is for certain: all forms of government contracting for products and services will not stop or even slow down during these trying times. Federal, State, and local entities continue to operate at full capacity, and although there may have been some changes made to accommodate the current pandemic situation, solicitations and contracting continues to be a priority. Maine PTAC is here for you… it is what we do.
New Location Downeast
Katie Bragg, Procurement Counselor
 
Some thoughts for when things get back to normal…
Washington County clients have had the option to meet with Katie in two different locations for a while now. The main office is in Machias at Sunrise County Economic Council and the other location has been on the campus of Washington County Community College. Throughout the pandemic, with the campus closed we were not able to be in our office there. Sunrise County Economic Council started making alternate plans and in the long run decided to purchase a building in Calais. We now occupy the former Calais Family Eye Care building at 330 North St. in Calais.
Once we are back to normal. Katie spends most of her time at the main office of SCEC in Machias, but if you are closer to the other side of the county, Katie is able to meet with you at the Calais office. Also housed in the Calais office is the SCEC loan program’s program manager, Susan Hatton.
Of course, at this time we are still primarily working from home to continue with social distancing, but once we are back in the office for business as normal, Katie can meet you at either office. Katie can now meet with you via Zoom and if there is a need to meet in person this can be done safely in either location with proper social distancing and mask wearing.
If you would like to set up a time to meet with Katie, she can be reached at 620-2273 or via email at kbragg@sunrisecounty.org.
Coaching Your Government Proposal Team
Miranda Pelkey, Procurement Counselor
 
Maine is fortunate to be home to small businesses of many sizes. When diving into the world of government contracts, sole proprietors often tackle the proposal writing process alone (or hopefully with their PTAC counselor). As a PTAC Counselor, I have witnessed many business owners, quickly delegating one or two employees to be “in charge of the government contract stuff”. While small business owners are often extremely busy, simply designating the person with the most free time is often not a winning strategy in proposal writing.
When a contract opportunity is posted to the open market, the competition may be strong. Because of this, it is important to make sure that your proposal is not meets the criteria laid out in the solicitation, but also provides the government agency with a comprehensive understanding of why and how your business is the best choice for the award.
Statistically, larger small businesses that perform more than one service or provide multiple types of products, are more successful in the government sector when they have a collaboration of key players working on the proposal. Having more than one set of eyes allows for mistakes to be caught, different aspects of how the work will be completed to be addressed and a more comprehensive proposal to be produced.
Should a company plan to regularly bid on government solicitations, implementing a proposal writing process for the team to follow will insure a less stressful and chaotic experience for your team, allowing them to focus on collaboration in insuring the proposal stands out to the contracting officer. Doing so will also insure that your business will be successful in their execution of the contract should your proposal be chosen. Finally, don’t forget to celebrate milestones along the way.
Putting together a winning proposal is a team effort and a lot of work so making sure to let your team know that the job was well done will offer encouragement in future proposal writing. And as always, when in doubt, contact your local PTAC Counselor for any and all questions!
What is a Labor Surplus Area and Does it Matter?
Ed Dahl, Procurement Counselor
 
The Labor Surplus Area (LSA) is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor and has Federal contracting ramifications. LSA means a geographical area identified by the U. S. Department of Labor (DOL) as an area of concentrated unemployment or underemployment or an area of labor surplus.
 
A LSA business is one that together with its first-tier subcontractors performs substantially in a designated labor surplus area.
 
The DOL issues the LSA list on a fiscal year basis. The list becomes effective each October 1, and remains in effect through the following September 30. The LSA qualifying unemployment rate is 20% above the national annual average unemployment rate for the two-year reference period.
 
LSA status can benefit Maine small businesses, but in a very targeted and limited way. In cases of tied low bids in a competitive sealed-bid situation, a business's affirmative LSA status can serve as the tie-breaker if two or more low sealed-bids from competing companies are otherwise equal in all respects.
 
As part of the SAM.gov registration or renewal process, one of the questions asked is if the business entity is located within a LSA. Unlike in prior years, Maine has NO LSA-designated counties for 2021, but that may change in the future given the current COVID 19 public health situation. Please refer to the 2021 LSA website and its attached Excel spreadsheet with current 2021 LSA designated geographic areas.
 
The SBA’s HUBZone Program has largely superseded the Labor Surplus Area Federal procurement program except in resolving tied sealed-bid situations mentioned above.
 
Maine PTAC can answer your Labor Surplus Area and HUBZone certification questions, and can help you with the HUBZone registration process. Please contact your Maine PTAC counselor if you need assistance.
RFPs: To Bid or Not
Morgan Rocheleau, Procurement Counselor
 
You have identified an RFP opportunity for your business, now what? Here are some helpful pieces to consider as you explore the bid opportunity and submit a proposal.
Identifying the needs of the customer is important as you look at the bid process, as there is usually more to the story than at first look. Meaning, take the time to review the RFP completely. You want to be able to identify the needs, schedule and budget the customer has presented. With a full understanding of that information, now it is time to decide does this opportunity truly fit our company. Many things can go into that decision including, strategic plan, resources, cash flow and others. Taking the time to formally assess the opportunity will simply set you up for success in the long run.
If the decision is “yes” to formally bid on the opportunity there are a few pieces that will increase your chances to win the contract. First, is to focus on the “solution” to the customer’s need within the proposal. Next, is to make sure you answer ALL the questions within the RFP. That includes questions that don’t apply to your company, simply state the reasoning why the question is not applicable. Third, follow RFP formatting instructions to how the proposal is to be submitted. Make sure that is correct and exactly how it was requested. Finally, submit the proposal early, don’t wait until the deadline. Allow for plenty of lead time to submit the bid.
Sound a bit overwhelming? It can be at times, but we are here to help. Don’t hesitate to contact your PTAC counselor if you have any questions on your next bid.
Finding the Best Customers and Contracts
Michael Ludwig, Business Development Specialist
 
Finding the best customers and contracts for your business requires you to know who you are, what your capabilities are, what sets you apart from your competition. Perhaps most importantly, you need to be aware of how all this might have changed.
 
There has never been a time when so much changed so fast. There are new systems, new services, new products and new opportunities. Many customers, competitors and suppliers are finding radical new ways to do things. It's time to assess what's working, what's not going to work and what could work. Sometimes the hardest decision is to jettison a process, product or service that just doesn't work well anymore.
 
It can be difficult to fully absorb all the nuances of government contracting, either as a prime or sub-contractor. You want to find the best, perhaps niche opportunities for your business. You should also be able to identify the "opportunities" that don't align with your values and strengths, no matter how tempting they look on the surface. 
 
Our counselors are trained to help. We provide research and help you find and dissect bid requests and contracts. We make sure you understand the needs of your potential customer and address all the requirements. Often it's the little details that cause a submission to fail: font style, line spacing, attachments (or not), etc. And finally, make sure you allow enough time to prepare a quality proposal. 
 
Many opportunities are out there - both big and small. Your Maine PTAC Counselor will help you find, win and build successful relationships, step by step.
Maine PTAC 40 Harlow Street, Bangor, Maine 04401 maineptac@emdc.org