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Workshop helps navigate federal goods, services

Small businesses can be at a disadvantage when it comes to bidding on contracts for good and services with the federal government.

But the federal government offers an opportunity to level the playing field for those businesses that may not have the resources of their big business counterparts.

And Wednesday, about a dozen small business owners took the opportunity to learn about those opportunities during a workshop at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College.

The workshop was held to provide local small and disadvantage businesses — those owned by minorities, people with disabilities and women —the chance to learn more about the opportunities the federal government provides as planning for the new Multi-modal Transit Center in downtown Duluth nears completion. The Duluth Transit Authority is federally funded and building the center.

As a federally funded agency, DTA Procurement Manager Nancy Brown said the DTA is mandated by federal law to reach out to small and disadvantaged businesses to provide the opportunity for businesses to provide goods and services for the $28.9 million transit center.

“I don’t know if I could visualize building a $29 million building myself, but I could visualize myself building a portion of it,” Brown said. She said the DTA is in the process of determining what those small portions of the project are so small businesses can be involved.

“We don’t want you to hurt your business doing it, but we want you to be involved,” Brown said.

Beyond the project, Brown said the DTA also contracts for a variety services that small businesses can provide.

“Small and disadvantaged businesses who respond to request for procurements are given special consideration under certain circumstances,” said Heath Hickok, director of marketing for the DTA. “For example, if two companies bid on the same amount on the same project, we would award the contract to the small or disadvantaged business. On the Multimodal Transportation Center project, bid bonds and/or performance bonds are waived for those small or disadvantaged businesses on contracts less than $75,000.”

In addition to learning about the programs that benefit small and disadvantaged businesses, participants had an opportunity to sign up for the System for Award Management (SAM), which is required before businesses can be awarded federal contracts.

For more information about the workshop or getting involved, call the Small Business Development Center at the University of Wisconsin-Superior at 715-394-8352 or visit

The DTA, SBDC, Small Business Administration, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Wisconsin Procurement Institute, and Duluth Builder’s Exchange sponsored the free workshop.