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Tapping federal contracts Featured

9:37am EDT July 22, 2002

Did you know that the federal government spends nearly $200 billion annually for goods and services provided by the private sector?

Now, the U.S. Small Business Administration has greatly enhanced an Internet-based initiative that gives small businesses better access to those dollars.

Businesses can tap the federal marketplace via the SBA's PRO-Net database. The latest improvement on the program allows users to receive direct e-mail notification from contracting officials who are interested in their products and services. All you have to do to get on board is dial into the database's Web site at www.pro-net.sba.gov and fill out an electronic registration form.

PRO-Net has been redesigned to allow users to conduct full-text searches for small businesses with the requested characteristics. The system will generate a list based on the exact word typed in -- or any of its close derivatives.

The system gives businesses access to two links, the Department of Defense's Central Contractor Registration and the General Services Administration's Electronic Posting System. The EPS system relays contracting notices from 20 federal agencies, with more to come soon.

Says Aida Alvarez, the SBA's chief administrator: "Everywhere you look, small business owners are jumping into e-commerce, and the trend is exactly the same for federal contracting -- you have got to get online ... this is a tremendous marketplace for America's small businesses, and PRO-Net makes it all possible online and up to date."

So you need a retirement plan ...

A consortium of public- and private-sector groups has banded together to educate small business owners about selecting retirement plans for their employees. And it's using the Internet to help.

The United States Chamber of Commerce, in a cooperative effort with the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Small Business Administration and Merrill Lynch, has launched an educational Web site that guides the planning process. The site, www.SelectARetirementPlan.org, officially launched in August and includes information on choosing the right retirement plan, as well as on a variety of plans and their benefits. It even has an interactive retirement calculator to help in the needs analyses.

Says Greg Lebedev, chamber executive vice president and COO, "This project represents a unique partnership that combines the leadership and innovative strengths of each participating organization."