Federal Allies Institute Interview: Mauricio P. Vera, Part 1

January 1, 2014

Mauricio P Vera USAID Federal Allies Institute 400 px

Mauricio P. Vera is a career member of the Senior Executive Service and serves as the director of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU). In this role, Vera leads USAID’s efforts to provide maximum opportunities for small, disadvantaged, women-owned, service-disabled veteran-owned and HUBZone small businesses to participate in USAID contract awards through outreach, education and creative procurement initiatives.

By Katia Lind

The following two-part interview published in the January and February 2014 editions of Federal Allies News highlights the work of Mauricio P. Vera, an early supporter for the formation of the Federal Allies Institute.

Federal Allies: Tell us about the OSDBU Conference.  We understand the outreach and public relations aspects that help to establish and build relationships and that it is a great annual resource for all agencies especially the smaller agencies.  How do the smaller agencies reach out across America to small businesses that for one reason or another cannot travel or afford fees associated with a major exhibition in Washington, DC?

Vera:  We recognize that small businesses do not have enough resources or time to attend a lot of conferences, what we do in my agency is monthly Vendor Outreach Events.  Many other agencies do the same thing.  Basically, about once a month, we invite small businesses to spend half a day with us to learn the basics of doing business with USAID.  We usually structure these sessions around different themes.  For example, we are doing one next month related to infrastructure projects around the world.  We’ve done them on health, agriculture, and a lot of technical areas that USAID works on.   Sometimes we do them with a different focus – targeted to Women Owned Businesses, Veteran-Owned Businesses, or whatever it might be.   In addition to monthly Vendor Outreach Events held in Washington, DC, we also have an annual Small Business conference, which in the coming year will be our 7th annual conference and that’s on May 22nd, 2014.   This is a one day event; and we do our best to keep the registration fees very low.  We invite our senior leadership as well as the working levels.  We have business match making.  Last year we had a Congressional member as well as our Administrator provide remarks; we also had the Administrator of OMB’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy, and we have panels and workshops to assist the businesses.  You can find details about these events through the internet and our websites.  People should know about www.osdbu.gov that has the links to all the agencies OSDBU offices and this is a good way to find out about many upcoming outreach events.

Federal Allies: For our beginners, many businesses utilize inside-the-beltway federal contracting consultancies.  When are advisors necessary and when are they not?  If someone wanted to become a federal contractor by themself and stay abreast of current trends, procedures and rules, is the information all available for free and how much time do you estimate that it takes to become proficient at federal contracting?

Vera: Most of the information out there is free.  I would recommend businesses not immediately hire the consultants, you can do a lot of research on the internet, go to the agency websites, there are a lot of organizations like U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as well as Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs), which we all recommend particularly for startup firms – it is a very inexpensive way to learn the ins and outs of the federal contracting world.  What I always tell businesses when they come to me is that I think they should target a specific agency.  Do not target everybody, depending on what type of services they provide they should target a small number of agencies and then really try to learn what the needs are of that agency by looking at the business forecast, by attending those agencies Outreach Events, getting to know some people, networking, all of which are critical.  You cannot just wait for the opportunities to be posted on http://www.fbo.gov and then just respond, you really have to learn what the agencies are looking for and meet some of the current contractors, because small businesses that are successful usually start out as subcontractors.  The best way to get on the teams is by getting to know some current players who have been already successful marketing to the agency.  And lastly, joining a trade association can sometimes be helpful.  For example, at USAID, many of our contracts are for technical assistance in the technical areas that we work in.  So to help us identify those niche firms that work in international development, we work closely with the Small Business Association of International Contractors (SBAIC).  This is a group of about 100 small businesses that mostly specialize in international development work.  For other agencies there may be other specialized types of associations that they work closely with.

Federal Allies: Your career includes work at Smithsonian, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and for the past six years at USAID.    Care to weigh the differences of working at one agency versus the others?

Vera:  There are a lot of differences. Obviously the requirements are very different.  At the Smithsonian, most of the contracts were for exhibit design and construction, and we awarded many engineering and constructions projects, because the buildings were constantly being renovated.  At the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, there were a lot of engineering and IT type projects, so we looked for those kinds of firms.  Both of these were much smaller agencies; each had procurement budgets of about $150 million to $200 million a year.  USAID has a much bigger procurement/acquisition budget and of course the biggest differentiator is that USAID is a world-wide agency.  USAID currently has missions in over 80 countries around the world.   For contracts that are awarded overseas, the regulations are very different, particularly when it comes to the use of small businesses.   The requirements are also very different, most of our dollars go out as technical assistance projects related to the areas that we work in– health, agriculture, democracy and governance, economic growth, there are about eight to nine different particular areas that we work in.  As far as our domestic awards, most of those are to support our administrative functions here in US, where we have our headquarters.  Our overseas requirements are usually about the implementation of our work.

Federal Allies: What security levels are required for your acquisitions, if any?

Vera: Most of our contracts are sensitive in nature and require personnel security clearances and facilities clearances consistent with clearance and access requirements of the contract. The security level required really depends on the requirement.  On occasion we encourage our prime contractors to sponsor subcontractors for their clearance, especially with the small businesses, because when the small businesses outgrow their size status we encourage them to mentor smaller firms, and one thing they can do is to sponsor them for the security clearance.

To be continued in the February 2014 edition of Federal Allies News.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES: Daisy Matthews consults one-on-one with Small Business Owner at a Federal Allies national conference “Washington’s DC Metro Expo” held at Fort Myer, Virginia in 2009.  Ms. Matthews serves USAID as Small Business Specialist, Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance POC, Bureau for Global Health [except Supply Chain Management) POC, Bureau for Europe & Eurasia, Bureau for Legislative and Public Affairs POC, Office of Civil Rights and Diversity POC, Office of Human Resources POC, and Woman Owned Small Business POC.

2009 061709 Washington's DC Metro Expo Fort Myer Kent Menser 700 px

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Col. Kent Menser USA (Ret.) of the Fort Meade Regional Growth Management Committee discusses federal contracting in Howard County, Maryland at the 2009 Federal Allies national conference, Fort Myer, Virginia. advises Small Business Entrepreneurs on how to do business with Howard County, Maryland.  Col. Menser recently announced his return to the private sector March 31, 2014.


Federal Allies News April 2013

April 1, 2013

The March 27-28 Region 6 Roundtable produced by Mid America Industry Government Coalition in collaboration with Federal Allies Institute Oklahoma Chapter was an informative, successful and fully-subscribed event.  With FAI’s input the Roundtable set into motion a grassroots gathering of comments on Mentor Protégé to be followed up upon at Federal Allies Institute’s Washington Days Conference May 6-7, 2013 in Washington, D.C.  The beneficiaries of our collective comments are the U.S. Small Business Administration and other areas of the Federal government.  Regulators will accept the comments, consider and respond to them before making final decisions.

 

As the readership of Federal Allies News knows, the National Defense Authorization Act contains many small business issues, including Mentor Protégé that the Federal Allies Institute has tracked and promoted dating from the 111th Congress unto today.

 

We note the government’s move online has not produced a fundamental shift in the nature of notice-and-comment rulemaking. A decade into e-Rulemaking, and four years since the Open Government Memorandum – that promised to incorporate rulemaking within a Social Media setting – it has not achieved the gains in efficiency and democratic legitimacy that were anticipated.  It is simply not used to any great extent, but we certainly appreciate the effort and look forward to the day that e-Rulemaking may be the norm.  For now our engaged and informed members still use the traditional methods of notice-and-comment.

 

As you attend Washington Days Conference to find your next contract and to establish new relationships, should you have comments for rulemaking we encourage you to voice your comments at Washington Days in person.

 

David T. Boddie

Executive Director


Federal Allies News March 2013

March 3, 2013

Washington Days Conference May 6-7, 2013, Washington, D.C. – You Are Invited!

The basic two-day framework for the annual national Washington Days Conference includes one full- day of federal contractor small business development including general sessions, workshops, one-on-one matchmaking, and reception,  followed by a second full-day touting the FAI Legislative Program on Capitol Hill with presentations, Congressional office visits, and Congressional reception.

We invite small businesses from across America and we invite decision makers from the federal government.  Once registered, both groups are welcomed to recommend additional speakers or participants to the conference whether from a specific government agency or a specific small business NAICS code, respectively, so register early to have the greatest impact on the conference agenda – topics, government personnel, set-asides, primes, and NAICS codes.

Since the conference is all about maximizing your results that includes maintaining a low ratio of government to small business registrants – even limiting attendance by one group or the other – which in these days of massive for-profit national federal procurement conferences may be considered heresy– but as Federal Allies is set up as a true non-profit our number goal is your results and not to see how many tickets we can sell, so register early.

We make every effort to connect registrants prior to the conference to get the ball rolling.  And then continue to build relationships with you for one year following the conference via the Federal Allies Network, our federal contracting community.  Add to it a vast network of experienced federal contractor experts who volunteer to answer your questions or to help you make that needed connection, the Washington Days Conference is ideal for your small business.

And an ideal way for Federal Allies to promote important small business legislation and regulatory flexibility which we work at year round, such as the National Defense Authorization Act, which bundled many pieces of small business legislation that you should know about.  Washington Days Conference registration begins 12:00 p.m. (ET), Tuesday, March 5, 2013.

U.S. House Small Business Committee Update

Federal Allies attended the February 27, 2013 U.S. House Small Business Committee meeting chaired by U.S. Congressman Sam Graves, Missouri, where they worked on improving the overall efficacy of U.S. Small Business Administration programs and the potential effect of the Sequester on SBA programs to make capital available, provide advice, and increase utilization of small businesses as federal contractors.  Ultimately, selective reductions in the SBA budget must reduce federal spending without undermining assistance to America’s best job creators – small businesses.  What are your thoughts?

Chapter Expansion

Federal Allies continues to meet about small business issues and programming, and bringing Washington Days Conference to your state, commonwealth, or territory.  Our current collaboration in Oklahoma is a Mentor Protégé Roundtable set for the Oklahoma City Marriott.

For more information, visit FederalAllies.org today.


Pentagram: DC Metro Expo at Fort Myer

June 18, 2009

Business Conference Held At Spates

By Michael Norris, Pentagram Assistant Editor

The second annual Washington, D.C. Metro Expo, a forum for small companies hoping to do business with the federal government, was held at Spates Community Club Wednesday.

David T. Boddie of Federal Allies Institute, the sponsor of the event, said 350 to 400 attendees signed up for the forum, with participants coming from 16 different states.

The expo had a convention-like atmosphere as 37 companies who already do work for the government, as well as government agencies, set up tables in Spates and interacted with companies hoping to find government work.

Technology-oriented companies specializing in construction, communications, contaminated waste disposal and security were readily visible at the expo, but so were some unexpected entities. Landsdowne, a resort eight miles west of Dulles Airport in Virginia was there marketing its facility as a place for organizational retreats and troop vacation packages, and a salsa company that does business at Fort Belvoir and Quantico was looking to further expand distribution of its product.

Even the non-profit USO Metro was there, looking for volunteers and soliciting sponsorship for its programs which benefit uniformed personnel.

‘‘It’s kind of like speed dating for government contractors,” said Boddie. ‘‘It’s a matter of streamlining and outsourcing the federal government to the widest extent possible.”

In addition to the casual networking in the ballroom, participants could also sign up for one-on-one sessions with local government contracting offices, such as the Small Business Administration and other federal agencies, seeking specifics in terms of bidding, contract requirements, eligibility, certifications and other issues.

There were also presentations on ‘‘Small Business Strategic Planning,” ‘‘Construction and BRAC,” and ‘‘Prime and Subcontractor Relationships” held throughout the day in rooms adjacent the ballroom.

‘‘If you want to see what’s out there, click on contracting opportunities,” Stacy Copeland of the Fort Myer Contracting Office told audience members in a breakaway session, supplementing a power point presentation on opportunities in the Army. ‘‘If you know that something’s on Fort Myer, click on Fort Myer and it’ll open up.”

Wesley Stith of Clark Construction, co-led the session on Contracting and BRAC. While the Base Realignment and Closure act has meant the loss of jobs for some, he said it can be an opportunity for others. Stith said companies have to be agile to quickly adapt to changing economic circumstances.

‘‘We’re in a new world,” he said. ‘‘Who would have believed that GM would be where it is today? People can’t keep doing the same old thing that worked before.”

Kenneth Mitchell, director of contracting for the Fort Myer Military Community, said the conference included participation by the Internal Revenue Service, the Air Force and other organizations, which provided budding entrepreneurs with a wide breadth of information. He said it also afforded an opportunity for Fort Myer contracting officials to meet face-to-face with their counterparts in other agencies.

‘‘It was a whopping success,” Mitchell said. ‘‘We had twice as many people as last year.” He said Fort Myer served as the unofficial host of the event.

Looking around at the buzz of activity, Boddie said, ‘‘We’re bringing the economy back right here at Fort Myer.”

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First FAI National Conference: Fort Myer, Va

April 23, 2008

FAI National Conference & Membership Meeting held during U.S. Small Business Week April 21-25, 2008

  • America’s Small Business Community
  • Federal Allies Institute
  • Fort Myer Military Community & MWR
  • USO Metropolitan Washington
  • U.S. Small Business Administration & SCORE
  • VET-Force
  • Vetrepreneur Magazine
  • 630 WMAL & Operation Fisher House
  • Local Arlington (VA) Chamber of Commerce 

It is our goal to minimize SG&A expenses.  If you can provide operational efficiencies that will help the FAI organization or our event registrants, please contact us immediately at saveusmoney@federalallies.org.


All involved in the planning FAI programs and events must sign a Volunteer & Ethics Agreement.