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Challenges met, opportunities shared during Region 2 Industry Days virtual event
December 8, 2021
By Ben Zabava
Screenshot of Federal Acquisition Service Regional Commissioner Jeffrey Lau virtually kicking off Region 2 Industry Days, Dec. 1-2, 2021.
People often say communication is the key to any relationship. If so, many business relationships most likely strengthened significantly when the U.S. General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service virtually hosted its most recent Region 2 Industry Days event on Dec. 1-2, 2021. For a total of approximately eight hours spread out over two days in a digital conference setting, various GSA acquisition officials and federal end-users of GSA’s supply schedules shared live dialogue and webinar presentations on the current and future landscape of the federal marketplace with a logged-in audience of over 200 vendors, resellers, wholesalers, manufacturers, and industry associations.
Over the past nearly two years, one of the deepest impacts on GSA’s schedule portfolio of traditional office supplies and services has been the federal government’s widespread adoption of telework in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other major issues facing vendors include supply chain challenges and the rising costs of raw and manufactured materials. Each one of these factors can be especially devastating for small businesses, which account for over 59% of General Supplies and Services category sales. GSA’s Industry Days speakers made certain to let vendors know the agency understands these challenges and wants to work together with vendors in overcoming them.
“We are seeing a decrease in demand for some of our product offerings that we are talking about today, just because of the shift to become a more mobile workforce,” said GSA FAS Region 2 Commissioner Jeffrey Lau, as part of his welcoming remarks on day one. “But we see a light at the end of the tunnel — we anticipate many agencies will start returning to their facilities in the coming months and, hopefully, we will see a shift in growth in some of that purchasing to return to what was normal-state, pre-pandemic.”
GSA officials also communicated that the agency stands ready to assist vendors in obtaining price adjustments for their contract items, even when above the threshold of a contract’s economic price adjustment clause, so long as the adjustment is necessary, justified, and properly documented.
“Please provide as much documentation as possible,” said GSA Northeast & Caribbean Supply and Acquisition Center Director Robert Woodside, during one of the event’s question-and-answer sessions. “Documentation from your wholesaler, documentation from your manufacturer, documentation by shipping cost — we need as much information as possible. Our contracts do get audited, and if someone sees a 30% price increase, we need to be able to show why we approved that price increase. So, you cannot send in too much information. Send all the information you have to us and then we will evaluate it.”
Screenshot of the GSA’s Vendor Support Center site, one of several digital portals discussed during Region 2 Industry Days, Dec. 1-2, 2021.
Both Industry Days featured discussions and presentations of new and existing GSA products and portals designed to make the process of selling to the government more efficient and less time-consuming for vendors eager to avoid delays in the revenue streams which help sustain them. Day one included webinars about GSA’s Multiple Awards Schedule consolidation, General Supplies and Services portfolio, the Verified Product Portal, Global Supply program, GSA Modification Guide [PDF], and Industrial Operations Analyst Assessments. Day two provided introductions to GSA services and tools like Market Research as a Service, Electronic Data Interchange & Vendor Portal for Global Supply Vendors, and numerous other eTools, as well as panel discussions with federal agency buyers and industry wholesalers and manufacturers.
“The panel discussions were a great way for vendors to hear directly from a variety of both federal customers and industry manufacturers and wholesalers about supply and demand trends in the federal marketplace,” said GSA Region 2 Supervisory Business Development Specialist Jennifer Jackson. “Even if some types of traditional office supplies have seen a lessening of demand due to factors like increased telework among federal agencies, other office supplies, particularly those related to health, safety and personal protective equipment, are in demand as never before. As one of our wholesalers remarked during our panel discussion, ‘The sanitizer bottle is the new stapler.’”
Ultimately, the goal of these GSA Region 2 Industry Days was to bolster partner relationships by sharing information and optimism about the future of the federal marketplace.
“We wanted to remind vendors that they are not alone and there are currently many new opportunities for them,” Jackson said. “For example, for whatever decreased amount of toner federal customers might be ordering for communal laserjet printers in their onsite facilities, they have begun having to purchase toner for the inkjet printers in their employees’ home and socially distanced offices. This event was an important step in helping our industry partners to stay informed and in sync with selling whatever products our federal customers are buying for their changing needs, at the best and fairest prices for all concerned, especially the American taxpayer.”