On Wednesday April 12, U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) visited MessageMakers in Lansing to announce that he will be introducing bipartisan legislation with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) to help protect small businesses from falling victim to fraud when they register to procure federal contracts.
The Procurement Fraud Prevention Act would require small businesses to be notified that free assistance is available for help in procuring government contracts through federal programs, including Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs), the Small Business Administration (SBA), and the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA).
Many business owners are unaware these resources exist and fall victim to scams that mislead them into paying high sums of money for contract procurement assistance.
“From defense and auto parts manufacturing to construction and catering, Michigan small businesses provide a wide variety of goods and services to the federal government while creating jobs in their local communities. It is important business owners are equipped with tools and knowledge to protect their companies against scams while taking advantage of new business opportunities,” said Senator Peters. “I am pleased to be at MessageMakers today to see firsthand how Michigan businesses are benefitting from services provided by their local PTACs. My commonsense, bipartisan bill with Senator Collins would better educate small businesses about existing, free federal resources so they can spend their hard-earned money reinvesting in their businesses and creating more jobs.”
“The PTAC of South Central Michigan has given our company a competitive advantage with the resources they provide at no cost – from the federal contract registration process to researching new bid opportunities and even seminars on bid award winning strategies,” said Terry Terry, President, MessageMakers. “Senator Peters’ bill will help make sure small businesses like ours know about the free services PTAC offers, and we’re proud to have him here to announce this legislation.”
“PTACs and other federal programs offer important tools to support the Greater Lansing Region’s small businesses and help them grow and succeed,” said Tim Daman, President & CEO, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Senator Peters’ legislation will make it easier than ever for small businesses to obtain federal contracts, and we thank him for his leadership.”
“The goods and services provided by the private sector are critically important to the federal government’s operations,” said Senator Collins. “Unfortunately, the procurement process can be complex and difficult to navigate, which can deter small businesses from competing for contracts or lead them to hire unnecessary and expensive consultants. Our legislation would ensure that more small businesses are aware of the free tools and resources already available to them so they can focus on making competitive bids, growing their companies, and creating jobs in their communities.”
All small businesses applying for federal contracting opportunities must register in the General Services Administration’s (GSA) System for Award Management (SAM).
Unfortunately, bad actors disguised as vendors or government officials obtain businesses’ contact from this public database and email business owners directly after they have registered asking for high sums of money in return for registration and contracting assistance.
As a result, many small businesses unwittingly sign up for services they were not seeking at the cost of hundreds or thousands of dollars.
While various firms provide legitimate contracting assistance, bad actors intentionally use predatory tactics to drain money from small businesses. PTACs across the country regularly report small businesses coming to them after these fraudulent encounters seeking corrective action, with some PTACs reporting up to ten fraudulent solicitations per week.
The Procurement Fraud Prevention Act requires GSA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to ensure that any direct communication to a small business about its registration in a procurement system, including SAM, contains information about cost-free federal procurement technical assistance services available through PTACs, SBA, MBDA, and other programs.
MessageMakers is a marketing and communications firm in Lansing’s Old Town and current client of PTAC of South Central Michigan, which is hosted by the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce.
MessageMakers turned to their local PTAC after experiencing difficulty finding opportunities and contracts once they secured placement on a GSA schedule.
The PTAC of South Central Michigan assisted MessageMakers in refining their search criteria to identify the best matches for available opportunities and revising their Capabilities Statement, which is one of the primary documents that federal agencies refer to when looking at potential contractors. MessageMakers has since secured production contracts with the Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Navy, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, as well as state and local entities.
Michigan is home to ten PTACs and over 850,000 small businesses that account for half of the state’s private workforce.
“Macomb County small businesses often receive fraudulent solicitations that can be confusing, drain their funds, and limit their ability to pursue defense contracts and other federal business opportunities,” said Beth Cryderman-Moss, Director, Macomb Regional PTAC. “I thank Senator Peters for working to address this issue and ensure that small businesses have access to free resources that can help them procure federal contracts, grow their business, and strengthen the economy in Macomb County.”
“The small businesses in rural Northwestern Michigan do not have to resources to pay for assistance in pursuing federal government contracts. The free services that the PTAC program provides are extremely valuable in helping our businesses to compete for those government contracts and make sure they aren’t taken advantage of by scams,” said Anne Helbig, Director of Business Development, Networks Northwest.