Las Cruces Bulletin – 07/21/2017
By ALTA LeCOMPTE Las Cruces Bulletin
If you’d like to sell your brand of salsa to Las Cruces Public Schools or your firm’s engineering services to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the best place to start is NM APEX Accelerator, the New Mexico Procurement Technical Assistance Center.
NM APEX Accelerator is a free service funded by the state and federal government to help businesses of any size do business with government agencies. From their new office at 3655 Research Drive, Genesis Building A, Suite 101, NM APEX Accelerator advisers Karen Medina and Priscilla (Penny) Wilson work with clients in Doña Ana, Catron, Luna, Hidalgo, Grants, Sierra, Otero and Lincoln counties. They even attend events to get a bead on upcoming projects.
“I was at Industry Day for Holloman Air Force Base in the fall, where contractors heard a forecast of upcoming opportunities,” Medina said. “Their (Holloman’s) small business director got up and said there were 56 construction projects coming up.”
NM APEX Accelerator clients
Medina said a client can be anyone with a product or service to market to any level or branch of government, including local governments and public schools. “Farriers are something the forest service can use,” she said. “We’ve worked with truck drivers and even freelance writers.”
One of the Albuquerque NM APEX Accelerator advisers helped a priest. “You never know what is going to come across your doorstep,” Medina said. At any given time, the local office serves between 100 and 200 clients, with free one-on-one counseling and workshops.
Topics the advisers address with clients include:
How to register and certify your business for government contracting
How to market yourself to the government
How to identify and evaluate bidding opportunities
How to respond effectively to a Request For Proposal (RFP) and a Request For Quotation (RFQ)
How to create and deliver a winning presentation
Federal accounting and invoicing practices
Research strategies for accessing federal, state, and local government markets
Understanding government regulations
How to be contract-ready
NM APEX Accelerator connections
Perhaps most important, NM APEX Accelerator serves as a bridge between business and government, because making connections is still important to winning contracts.
“People still buy from people,” Medina said. The two Las Cruces-based advisers recently visited the Columbus port of entry, where the Department of Homeland Security is expanding its presence. “Homeland Security awarded an $86 million prime contract,” Medina said. “I hope the prime contractor will want us to do a meet-and-greet so they can meet potential subcontractors.” She said a Virginia contractor recently contacted her regarding a Deming-area project. “He asked me to send out an email blast to our clients,” she said. “Several of our clients reached out to him and copied me. I am hoping they will get involved with Homeland Security.” Although subs and other contractors can look for work on government websites, it’s always nice to get an opportunity direct from a prime contractor, Medina said.
In addition to making connections for southern New Mexico businesses, the advisers counsel them on how to get established in government databases and steer them toward certification opportunities through the Small Business Administration, which improve their chances of being awarded a contract. While the advisers don’t fill out paperwork for their clients, they do coach them on filing applications and estimating a price. “We do not write proposals,” Medina said. “We look at what they’ve done. “We don’t work as a middle man between the client and the government agency. We would never call up Holloman Air Force Base and tell them we have a client for a project.”
The other side of purchasing
Medina and Wilson share a background in procurement and the women were colleagues working for the City of Las Cruces. “Karen was my manager,” Wilson said. “I was a buyer.” “We used to be the ones putting out RFPs,” Medina said. “Now we’re telling contractors how to respond to RFPs and prepare their capability statements. This is basically still purchasing – but now we’re helping. ” “We’ve seen so many little mistakes,” she said. When a business comes close to winning a contract but loses out in the final competition because of a small mistake, it’s heartbreaking, Wilson said. “Mistakes are costly for a business – and people spend months on those things,” Medina added. Wilson said she worked for a private sector company that went after bids, so she understands the stressors those businesses face.