How local businesses can join the supply chain and win federal contracts

Posted July 30, 2021 1:02 p.m. EDT

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Malcom Allen IV, a reconnaissance Marine with the Maritime Raid Force (MRF), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) parachutes over Ie Shima, Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 26, 2021. The MRF conducted high-altitude jumps and dropped joint precision air drop systems to maintain readiness for future exercises and operations. The 31st MEU is operating aboard ships of the America Expeditionary Strike Group in the 7th fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Cody Rowe)

This article was written for our sponsor, the North Carolina Military Business Center.

For businesses of all sizes, securing government contracts can be quite lucrative.

In fact, federal and defense contracts are a major driver of North Carolina's economy, with the military accounting for about 12 percent of the state's gross domestic product, according to Scott Dorney, Executive Director of the North Carolina Military Business Center, or the NCMBC. Even with the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, federal agencies and the military contributed more than $9.5 billion through prime contracts with local companies during fiscal year 2020.

The issue is that many businesses don't know how to get started or even whether the products or services they offer would interest government agencies. However, military and federal contracts involve a wide range of businesses, including manufacturing, biotechnologies, textiles, construction, cybersecurity systems, food, furniture, medical technologies and transportation.

So, how does a business find and apply for these contracts? The NCMBC's goal is to help companies understand how their products fit into the supply chain, and then position them so they can bid on government contracts.

Prime contracts go to businesses that deliver goods or provide services directly to a government entity. However, many businesses do not make the end product, instead they create the material needed to make that product.

"Textiles, for example, is a very vertical supply chain — from the farmer who grows the cotton or the company that makes the artificial fiber, to yarn producers, fabric producers, finishers, accessories producers and cut-and-sew end-item manufacturers," said Dorney.

While the NCMBC can help businesses that are in various positions on the supply chain, it needs to first know they exist.

"Even this vertical supply chain is not very visible," said Dorney. "Unless supply chain businesses register as federal contractors, they are nearly invisible to us."

While businesses with goods and services early in the supply chain may not be able to bid directly for government contracts, the NCMBC can inform them of military end-item requirements and prompt them to encourage primes to bid on the contracts.

End-item manufacturers, such as a cut-and-sew business that crafts uniforms, and their suppliers should start by signing up on to become official government contractors. Agencies that have contract opportunities worth more than $25,000 post these opportunities to, and delivers these opportunities automatically to matched businesses.

Getting help

The NCMBC helps businesses win these contracts through several processes.

  • Ensuring businesses are ready and registered to receive a contract award
  • Monitoring federal agencies to identify the most lucrative contract opportunities
  • Teaming potential prime contractors with supply chain
  • Connecting federal contract opportunities to prime and subcontractors
  • Providing technical assistance to help businesses compete for and win contracts
  • Providing access to, the state's free federal contract matching portal

Businesses can access these services through free counseling and attending webinars and other training opportunities hosted by the NCMBC. According to Mark Mills, business development manager for NCMBC, in just this year alone the NCMBC has offered more than 50 web conferences, online and in-person training opportunities.

This article was written for our sponsor, the North Carolina Military Business Center.

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.