Tennessee PTAC Successfully Assists Small Business

January 26, 2016

PTAC Work Leads to $526 Million Economic Impact in FY15

Source: University of Tennessee PTAC, December 2015UT_PTAC_WordmarkUT_PTAC_Pic_400px

Clayton Poff started his business, Energy Cost Reducers LLC (ECR), on “less than a shoestring.” Seven years later, his business is on the verge of what he calls “a once in a lifetime contract.”

ECR is just one of the Tennessee businesses that receives consulting assistance from the UT Center for Industrial Services’ Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). CIS’ PTAC consultants, Debbie Barber, Paul Middlebrooks and Russell Toone, work with Tennessee businesses to help coach them through the federal government contract process. In fiscal year 2015, businesses that were assisted by the PTAC consultants secured more than $526 million in government contracts.

CIS began serving as the Tennessee PTAC in 1986, the year after U.S. Congress authorized the program in an effort to expand the number of businesses capable of participating in the government marketplace.  Administered by the Department of Defense, Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), the program provides matching funds through cooperative agreements with state and local governments and non-profit organizations for the establishment of PTACs to provide procurement assistance. PTACs are the connection between buyer and supplier, linking their knowledge of government contracting and the capabilities of contractors to maximize fast, reliable service to the government with better quality and at lower costs.

Poff’s story is similar to many other small businesses across the state that have received assistance from PTAC.

“Trying to get into the federal market wasn’t even a thought in my mind,” he said. “I reached out to the Tennessee Small Business Center, the guy looked down at my arm and asked if I’d been in the Marines. When I told him yes, he said ‘you need to call Russell Toone (who is also a veteran). So I called Russell, he asked if I was at a computer and told me exactly where to go on the website, where to click and walked me through the whole thing.”

Following that initial phone call, Poff and Toone met in person where the consultant told Poff ‘I will help walk you through the registration, help you understand how to get federal contracts and you need to go get one.’

UT_PTAC_VideoI did everything Russell told me to do,” Poff added. “I filled out all of the paperwork (for an Air Force contract), made my bid high to cover all my costs and then tripled it so I wouldn’t win the bid (because I didn’t know if I had the capacity to fulfill the contract.) Several weeks later the Air Force called and told me I was the only one to fill out the paperwork correctly, so the job was mine. There is no way I could have done that without PTAC.”

Just as highly as Poff speaks of the PTAC consultants and the job they do, they echo his thoughts on the relationships they develop with these small businesses.

“It’s satisfying to know that we’ve made a difference for these companies,” Toone said. “Some clients have become like family, so to speak; we’ve worked with them for several years and we see their success. It’s very rewarding.”

CIS’ PTAC consultants work across the spectrum when it comes to the type of businesses they assist. They work with businesses owned by veterans, women and other minorities and with organizations of varying size. In recent years, the Tennessee PTAC has assisted the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge with providing training for suppliers who want to work within the regional nuclear arena; has offered supplier diversity training for suppliers of a Tennessee automotive manufacturer; and is working with another company to help develop a mentor-protégé program.

“My favorite part is the diversity of the companies we work with from manufacturers to distribution companies,” Middlebrooks said. “It’s challenging to work with all of these different types of businesses, but it’s worth it to see the satisfaction on their faces when we help them solve a problem.”

The scope of assistance provided by Barber, Middlebrooks and Toone has expanded beyond coaching businesses through the federal government contracting process. In addition to helping companies in the beginning,
they want to be available to them years after they win their first contract.

“We wanted to work with the companies that have been working as government contractors for a while so we started offering executive series courses to work with some of the more successful companies across the state and these courses have been a big success,” Middlebrooks explained. “This has allowed us to work with companies we helped get started in government procurement.”

ECR is a perfect example of a small company that has seen success thanks to PTAC’s work. Its first contract, valued at $30,000, was in 2008. Fast forward to 2015 and Poff is serving as a subcontractor on a contract that is valued at $160 million over a period of five years.

“I sat in a room with federal agencies and they asked if I would put together a team of prime contractors in the Memphis area. Because of the PTAC coaching over the years, I was able to sit in that meeting and understand everything, and that meeting led to the largest contract my company’s been involved with,” Poff said.

Interested in Government Contracting?  Contact your nearest PTAC for more details.


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 For help with Government Contracting: contact your nearest Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). Funded through Cooperative Agreements between the U.S. Department of Defense and state and local governments/institutions, PTACs provide free and low-cost assistance in virtually all areas of government contracting.