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Funding for Corps of Engineers is opportunity for small businesses

Despite cuts in federal spending, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has up to 16 local contracts that may soon be up for bids, and state officials want to help Maryland businesses win them.

On Wednesday, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development and Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation announced a series of workshops for contractors next week in Baltimore and Prince George’s County on the basics of contracting, federal procurement, contracting regulations and financing assistance.

The Corps’ procurement plans will be explained in more detail at an event Nov. 5, and on Nov. 18 the companies can hear specifics on contracting and subcontracting opportunities, as well as meet one-on-one with procurement officers. DBED Secretary Dominick Murray referred to this as “speed-dating” for contractors.

State officials say the opportunities, worth millions of dollars, exist thanks to a federal bill that includes funding to support projects at military bases.

“If there’s one segment of our economy that Congress will protect and help flourish as much as possible, it is on the defense side,” said DLLR Secretary Leonard Howie.

The intent of the workshops is to make the prospect of federal government contracting less intimidating to small and mid-size businesses. The state agencies hope to remove hurdles both in the administrative and networking tasks.

The workshops may also help the federal government reach its goal of awarding 23 percent of contracts to small businesses, said Gloria Larkin, president of Baltimore-based TargetGov, which helps connect businesses with government contracts.

For construction contracts, she said, the projects can be particularly complicated and intimidating to small businesses.

“Most construction companies specialize,” she said. “No one company can do the entire job, [so] they must subcontract.”

This can open up more opportunities for small businesses, but to win them, they need to connect with larger contractors.

Rob Beasley, chief financial officer and electrician for Stevensville-based RJ Beasley Electric LLC, has done work for the Coast Guard and said a program such as this one would have been useful to him when he began pursuing contracts.

“We had some rough goes trying to figure out the paperwork and so on and so forth,” said Beasley.

Regarding subcontracting, he said, “it seems like it’s a large hurdle to break through to get to work for those contractors.”

Workshops on the basics of contracting and federal procurement will be held Oct. 29, 1 to 4:30 p.m., at Camden Yards Warehouse in Baltimore, and Oct. 31, 8:30 a.m. to noon, at the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corp.

The session on the Corps of Engineers’ procurement plans will be Nov. 5, 8 a.m. to noon, at the Sheraton Baltimore City Center, and the session called Contract Connections for Military Construction Contracting will be Nov. 18, 8 a.m. to noon, at the BWI Hilton in Linthicum Heights.