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How To Sell To Local Governments


David Dice, Director
Montgomery County General Services
255 Rockville Pike, Suite 180
Rockville, MD 20850-4168

  Interview Highlights

  • Montgomery County Maryland Office of Procurement.
  • Contracts at the local government level are better than grants.
  • Grants at the local level are small: $3,000 to $5,000 or maybe $20,000.
  • Grants are usually one year, “one and done”, and they are subject to a lot of changes.
  • Government Contracts are not the answer to small business success, but they are a means to success
  • An example of a small business contact is contracting for novelty items, like cups, mugs, t-shirts,etc.
  • They changed their rules to make it easier to purchase from a small business.
  • Most governments have a dollar threshold where they can go out and buy something without a competitive bid.
  • In Montgomery County the limit is $5,000.
  • He finds it easier working with a small business than with a big business.
  • The biggest problem businesses have is “Who Do I Talk To” and “Where To Start”
  • The best way to get in is to:
    • Know what the small purchase threshold is
    • Find the procurement office.
    • Get a copy of the budget, a great tool to see where they will be spending next year.
  • There are usually 3 layers of procurement.
    • Non-competitive bids (maybe up to $5,000)
    • Informal competitive process (maybe $5,000 to $25,000)
    • Formal competitive process (maybe over $25,000)
  • The Procurement Office can tell you what they are buying right now. But the government departments and offices are the ones that can tell you what they will be buying in the future. So find the offices that buy your stuff.
  • You have to find out who to talk to in the departments and offices and the procurement departments are the people who can tell you who to market to. DO NOT TRY TO MARKET TO THE PROCUREMENT PEOPLE. Procurement can tell you who to speak to.
  • Make sure you follow every procedure that they ask you to follow no matter how much you hate procedures.
  • When you contact a government office make sure you respect that the person you are calling is a very busy person
  • Procurement departments can help you if you are having trouble with a given department or agency.
  • Contracts can be for 3 to 5 years.
  • You can get copies of current contracts so you can see what they are buying and at what price.
  • You can see all the bids that were received for any proposal. You can see what everyone else’s price is.
  • Most businesses just don’t know what to ask for or who to ask.
  • You don’t have to hire an attorney to read a contract for you. The procurement office can get answers to any questions you have about any contract.
  • They have an office that works with prime contractors to tell them about small businesses that they might want to use a sub-contractors. Contact them and get on the list.
  • The state of Maryland has an office that certifies that the business is a minority, veterans, or woman-owned, etc. business
  • Before a bid is due they usually have a meeting that is open to the public to talk about a given contract.
  • For big contracts, small businesses can attend these meetings to talk to businesses with the idea of becoming a sub-contract on the project
  • There are non-profit organizations, chambers of commerce and department of economic developments, that help businesses get government contacts.