Skip to main content

Deputy Administrator Bibb Speaks at DOL Opportunity Conference in Philadelphia

As prepared for delivery

Remarks for
David Bibb
Deputy Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration (GSA)
Department of Labor Opportunity Conference
October 17, 2006
Philadelphia, PA


Thank you, Sam (Mok, CFO for Department of Labor) for that very nice introduction.

I’d also like to recognize the other platform guests—Ms.  Rosa Rosales, National President of the League of United Latin American Citizens and Mr. Donald Bowen, Senior Vice President of the National Urban League.

I’d like to express my appreciation to the “Office of The U.S. 21st Century Workforce” at The Department of Labor for inviting GSA to participate in this important conference.  I’m honored to be a part of today’s activities.

Finally, I’d like to congratulate all of the other distinguished guests and sponsoring organizations who have contributed so much to making this a very successful event. 

I am David Bibb, Deputy Administrator of the General Services Administration, a federal government agency based in Washington, DC.  Like almost everything else in Washington, we usually go by the acronym “GSA.”

GSA has more than 12,000 employees at our Washington headquarters and in 11 Regional Offices around the country. 

You may not have heard much about g before today, but here’s why you might want to know more.  GSA supplies all federal agencies with almost everything they need to run their organizations. 

GSA is the largest provider of products, services, technology, and work space for other federal government agencies.  Supplies, technology, and services for other federal agencies.  About 40 percent of the total dollars GSA spent in fiscal year 2006 went to small companies that sold their products and services to the federal government.

You may think that, because of its size, the federal government deals only with big companies that can supply huge amounts of whatever the government needs.  That would be a mistake.

GSA deals with vendors of all sizes and they can provide quantities large and small.  They may even offer a specialized service, rather than a product.  For large procurements, the government has requirements for including small businesses as sub-contractors.

I’m here today representing GSA’s new Administrator, Lurita Doan, who sends her greetings and regrets that she couldn’t be here this afternoon.  However, I think you’ll be interested to know a little bit about her background.

Mrs. Doan began her professional career as a small business owner with nothing but a good idea and a handful of business cards printed at kinko’s for $25.  For her first three years, she was her technology company’s only employee. 

When she sold the company in 2005, it held about $200 million in federal contracts.  It’s easy to see why President Bush selected Mrs. Doan to lead the government’s premier acquisition agency.

Administrator Doan’s commitment to small business is both professional and personal.  She grew up in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans and comes from a long line of African-American women entrepreneurs.  Her great-grandmother built a thriving business by selling pralines to New Orleans businessmen shortly after the civil war. 

Mrs. Doan also knows first-hand about the sometimes back-breaking work, dedication, and disappointments associated with growing a new business.  But she still describes herself as “an unabashed entrepreneur.” And she brings that energy and enthusiasm and “can do” spirit to GSA every single day—especially when it comes to promoting small business.

On her first day on the job, Mrs. Doan said that one of her highest priorities is to simplify and speed-up the time it takes small businesses to be eligible to do work for the government. 

If Mrs. Doan were here today, she’d likely want to convey three messages:
1. GSA believes in the energy and creativity of small business owners.
2. GSA is open to innovative ideas and the possibility of change—some of the most valuable qualities small business owners bring to the table.
3. GSA values the role that businesses, large and small, play in bringing government customers to GSA.

In addition to providing office supplies and technology, GSA also wants to make sure American citizens get what they need when they look for federal government information or services.  GSA provides a toll-free number—1- 800-FED-INFO—that allows citizens to speak directly to a call center operator.  The call center can respond to questions in English and Spanish.

If you’d rather go online to track down information, you can go to FirstGov.gov.  That website is the gateway to all federal government agency information.  Espanol.gov provides some of the same information in Spanish and is adding new content all the time.

Providing opportunities for small businesses to receive federal government contracts is a very good thing to do—and it is also a legal requirement.

In 1978, the United States congress passed a law that requires almost all federal agencies to appoint a director for small business utilization.  That person’s only job is to assist you—the small business owner.

The law also requires that a specific percentage of each federal agency’s purchases and contract awards must go to small businesses.  That number is 23 percent, and it applies in different ways, depending on the total dollar amount of the product or service.  

I’m proud to say that GSA regularly exceeds the government goal.  40 percent of GSA’s contracting dollars go to small businesses. 

GSA supports all categories of small businesses—minority-owned, women-owned, HUBZone, and veteran-owned.  A bit more than a year ago, President Bush placed special emphasis on a new category of small business—service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses—and set additional goals for agencies to include these veterans in government contracting opportunities..

GSA has a very important obligation to ensure that all small business owners are aware of federal government programs designed to assist them get government contracts.

Although the law has been on the books for many years, the federal government, until recently, had never achieved the 23 percent goal.  So in 2001, President Bush directed GSA and all other federal agencies to expand their outreach efforts to small businesses. That’s why events like this one are so important.

This conference is a perfect forum for small businesses to learn more about networking; building partnerships; and ways to grow the business.  It’s also about all of the government resources that are available to assist small business owners.

And it’s a two-way street.  When we on the government side attend conferences like this one, we get to meet you—the small business owners.  We can learn more about what products and services you have to offer and better understand the challenges you may be facing.
 
Also, never underestimate the value of networking!  I think one of the big benefits of a conference like this is the opportunity to make valuable contacts outside the meeting rooms—at coffee breaks or in break-out sessions.  And that can be true no matter how stellar the speakers or how informative the sessions.  So keep those business cards handy and pass them out liberally!

This event is also an opportunity to celebrate the contributions Asian Pacific, Hispanic, and African American businesses make to our cities and communities every day of the year.  Gatherings like this one demonstrate what a potent force you really are in our nation’s economy

GSA’s commitment to small business goes beyond just making people aware of opportunities.  We know that “access” to these opportunities is critical.  The federal government’s needs for goods and services are extremely varied.  And government acquisition procedures are complex. 

I hope many of you know about the GSA “Multiple Award Schedules”—often referred to as just “the Schedules.” In non-bureaucratic language, the schedules are a listing of companies that have been approved by GSA to provide goods and services to other federal agencies.   

No matter what you call them, the schedules are a very important gateway to doing business with the federal government.  In fact, the schedules are frequently the first experience small businesses have with government contracting.

When Mrs. Doan was growing her technology business, her company was a GSA Schedule-holder.  With each solicitation and debriefing, she learned more about what government customers want.  She credits the GSA schedules with giving her company its first big break in getting work with the federal government—as a sub-contractor to a much larger, high-tech firm.

Here’s a number that might get your attention—roughly 80 percent of companies on the GSA Schedules are small businesses.  That’s 80 percent!

Fair warning:  getting listed on the schedules is no easy task.  It takes a substantial investment of time and resources by small business owners to get on the GSA Schedules, and there are no guarantees of a contract award even if a business makes the list. 

Unfortunately, I don’t have a magic key to open that door.  But GSA offers a number of resources that can help you get on the Schedules and then market your goods and services to federal government customers once you are on the Schedules.

One very important resource is GSA’s “Office of Small Business Utilization.”   In Washington, DC, that office is headed by Felipe Mendoza.  GSA also has small business offices in each of its eleven regions.

The sole responsibility of each of these small business offices is to be your front door to GSA and to opportunities to do work with the federal government.  The small business offices work very hard to remove barriers that might otherwise make it difficult for small businesses to sell goods and services to federal agencies.  These offices have a wealth of information that can help you learn more about government contracting. 

Felipe’s office runs training workshops for small businesses on a monthly schedule in DC and in other locations around the country throughout the year.  And his staff are available to respond to your questions directly by e-mail or phone.  That’s also true for the regional small business offices.

Today, we’re in GSA’s Mid-Atlantic Region, which serves federal customers in Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Southern New Jersey, and most of Maryland and Virginia.

The GSA Mid-Atlantic region also provides supplies and support for federal offices located in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.  The region is also home to the Eastern Distribution Center and National Furniture Center, both of which serve federal customers worldwide.

While you’re here at the conference, I hope many of you will take advantage of the GSA workshop to be presented later this afternoon.  My colleague, Helena Koch, a small business specialist here in Mid-Atlantic, will lead the discussion.  The session title is “how to get on the GSA Schedule.”

You should come away from that session with some basic knowledge about the initial steps in the process.  The workshop is also a great networking opportunity to meet other small business owners.  Often the experiences of other small businesses provide valuable “lessons learned.”

A bit later in the process, you will want to learn more about how to market your business to federal agencies once you are on the schedules.  This conference provides a wonderful opportunity to learn about the full range of free federal government resources tailored to the needs of small business owners.  

If you haven’t done so already, you should also plan to stop by the GSA booth in the exhibit hall.  It’s staffed by small business specialists from GSA’s Mid-Atlantic Region who can answer your questions.  They will also have lots of free handouts you can take away from the conference.

After you leave the conference, the GSA website—is an excellent place to continue your search for more information on GSA small business resources that are available online.

In closing, I hope you will take away several thoughts from today’s conference:

  • There are numerous contracting opportunities for small businesses to work with the federal government.  Remember—80 percent of schedule holders are small businesses.
  • The federal acquisition regulations can be complicated.
  • Each government agency has its own special requirements and needs.
  • Getting on the GSA schedules and then getting a government contract take a lot of time and a lot of hard work. 

But:

  • The GSA small business offices exist solely to help small businesses understand government’s needs and procedures.
  • The GSA small business offices can guide you through the process and will work to match your firm’s experience with GSA requirements. 
  • Small businesses have a much greater chance of success in doing work for the government if they take advantage of all the government resources that are available to them.
  • More positive news—the GSA small business offices provide all this good information and assistance for free!

Each federal government agency has its own role and mission in carrying out the nation’s business and serving American citizens.

America’s small businesses play an essential role in supplying government agencies with the tools each agency needs to carry on its work. 

The job could be as large as fulfilling the Army’s need for a fleet of hummers or as small as helping a senior citizen fill out a social security administration form.  Whatever the job at hand, small businesses supply civil servants every day with the products and support they need to get their jobs done.

Your businesses may be small, but the need you fill is huge.  I hope everyone here today will take advantage of all the resources that are available and join us in helping the government do its job!   Small businesses are the backbone of the economy and the future of America.

As they used to say in government posters—“Uncle Sam needs you!!” 

Thank you and good luck.