On May 2, 2018 the Governor's Mansion in Baton Rouge was the site for the annual Louisiana Small Business Awards.
Helping Louisiana companies compete for government contracts is the main focus of the Louisiana Procurement Technical Center. In 2015, two of the nine U.S. firms chosen by the U.S. Agency for International Development for $600 million in global architect-engineer services hailed from New Orleans, and both firms credit PTAC for helping them win the work.
The two woman-owned firms – Trigon Associates LLC and Perez APC – say PTAC’s no-cost, expert support also guided them to other highly competitive government work that has helped them grow and thrive.
“For us, it has been like having additional staff and advisers,” says Lisa Cookmeyer, owner and partner of Trigon, PTAC’s Contractor of the Year for 2016.
Perez owner Angela O’Byrne says PTAC assistance has been crucial in winning federal work for projects in Germany, North Africa, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
“They’ve been incredibly helpful,” says O’Byrne, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2016 Small Business Person of the Year for Louisiana, and a runner-up for the SBA’s national award.
Consistently recognized as one of the best programs of its kind in the U.S., PTAC has helped Louisiana companies in 54 parishes win $4.5 billion in government work since 1989. Funding support for PTAC comes from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Department of Defense and Louisiana Economic Development.
PTAC operates offices in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and at its headquarters at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, another key funding supporter. A separate organization, the Northwest Louisiana Government Procurement Center, provides services to 10 Northwest Louisiana parishes.
The procurement offices help firms compete for government work at every level, from federal agencies with global reach, to small towns and local school boards. Services are free and include proposal assistance, bid-matching services, marketing advice and seminars on other topics, such as networking and certifications.
Sherrie Mullins, the PTAC program manager at UL Lafayette, fields government contract requests for everything from free-range chickens to airplane parts and lawn maintenance. Her program works to connect those requests with Louisiana firms that can fill them.
“We help Louisiana firms become more competitive for government bids across the board,” she says.
PTAC guidance has been instrumental for Perez APC in securing a wide range of government work, including National Park Service disaster-recovery projects in New Jersey and New York after Hurricane Sandy. The company has expanded and diversified since the huge blow of Hurricane Katrina, when it lost 23 of 25 ongoing projects.
Its operations today include offices and employees in places as different as New York City and Kabul, Afghanistan. For the Perez firm, opportunity in Afghanistan began several years ago with PTAC’s recommendation that the firm attend a specific Department of Defense conference in Memphis, Tennessee.
At the conference, O’Byrne learned the federal government planned to spend billions to help rebuild Afghanistan, but that U.S. firms needed to travel there in-person if they were serious about competing for the work.
What followed was a whirlwind marketing trip to Afghanistan and participation in the construction of national police headquarters and other USAID-funded infrastructure.
In Trigon’s case, PTAC provided suggestions for SBA certification that would give the company a leg-up in competing for federal projects. Other help included feedback on bid proposals, along with instruction in preparing key documents, such as a one-page “capability statement” essential for securing federal contracts.
Trigon has looked consistently to PTAC for direction since the firm’s founding seven years ago. That assistance frequently translates into growth opportunities: In 2010, Trigon was selected as a subcontractor for a $750 million project to improve roads and waterways in Palestine, a USAID effort in the West Bank and Gaza.
“PTAC helped us prepare to compete for this kind of international work,” Cookmeyer says. “They helped us get up to speed quickly on the process and have been a wonderful resource.”