Thursday, September 27, 2007

Condolences to Lynette Oliver

Lynette Oliver, receptionist / clerical support staffer in the Small Business Empowerment Center office -- she is our face to the world, so to speak -- lost her husband Jeffrey Oliver in a motorcycle accident last night (9/26/07) on State Street in East St. Louis, IL.

Our hearts and thoughts are with Lynette and her family and friends. Arrangements pending.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Contacts for Contracts is Tuesday October 2nd!

MO PTAC Eastern Region and the St. Louis Small Business Monthly are co-sponsoring:

Contacts for Contracts
part of the
St. Louis Small Business Expo
Tuesday October 2 2007
11 am - 6 pm
St. Charles Convention Center
Exit 229A (5th Street South)
Right on Veterans Memorial
Left into Convention Center (attached to Embassy Suites Hotel)


This is a free event, and a great opportunity to interact with a variety of Federal and State agencies and Prime contractors. Scheduled to appear are speakers from the following agencies:

MO PTAC (that would be me, of course)
US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Small Business Administration (SBA) Procurement Center Representative (PCR)
Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base
General Services Administration (GSA)
US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
DRS Technologies
The Boeing Company
State of Missouri Office of Administration (OA)

Not to mention the ever-growing list of exhibitors.

This will be a tremendous networking opportunity for all kinds of small businesses... and it's completely FREE of charge!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Small Business Empowerment Center

The Small Business Empowerment Center is located at:

100 N. Tucker Blvd.
Ste. 530
St. Louis, MO 63101

It is home to the offices of several partner organizations:

  • Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (MO PTAC) Eastern Region

  • Missouri Small Business Development Centers (MO SBDC) Empowerment Zone Office

  • Greater St. Louis Regional Empowerment Zone

  • Advantage Capital Partners, Biz Capital Division

  • We are here to help small businesses in a variety of ways, from seminars to one-on-one counseling to (in the case of the latter two organizations only) some limited financing tools.

    To find upcoming seminars at this location, just go to the Statewide Calendar, then search for "100 N".

    Tuesday, August 14, 2007

    What is MO PTAC?

    MO PTAC stands for:

    MO = Missouri

    P = Procurement
    T = Technical
    A = Assistance
    C = Centers

    The mission of MO PTAC is to help Missouri businesses sell to the government. We work with all kinds of Federal, State and Local agencies, but with a particular emphasis on the US Department of Defense and its many divisions.

    MO PTAC is one of 93 PTACs nationwide funded by the PTAP (Procurement Technical Assistance Program) of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA).

  • DLA listing of PTAP recipients.

  • Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (APTAC) Members.

  • Some PTACs are regional, so there are several within a state; some, like MO PTAC, are Statewide. There is also a PTAC based in Joplin MO called Heartland PTAC, originally a regional PTAC for southwest MO but which now serves the entire state of Kansas as well.

    MO PTAC is part of University of Missouri Extension Business Development Programs.

    MO PTAC is headquartered in Columbia MO on the UM-Columbia campus.

    MO PTAC field staff are located in Columbia, St. Louis, Kansas City, West Plains, and Rolla MO.

    MO PTAC Eastern Region...
    is the local office where I work. We serve the entire St. Louis metropolitan area, plus several dozen counties in southeast MO.

    What is a Sheltered Workshop?

    This article reprinted from my personal blog.

    Have you ever looked at your tax bill and wondered "what's that 'sheltered workshop' tax all about?"

    Recently I've learned a little more about sheltered workshops in Missouri, and their important role in employing individuals that probably would not be able to get jobs anywhere else. They also provide a valuable service to government and industry in the form of contracts for manufactured goods and certain services like janitorial work.

    In short, a sheltered workshop is a small factory where people with mental retardation and developmental disabilities (and in some cases, physical disabilities) work. They do get paid, but have special waivers from the US Department of Labor Wage & Hour Division to pay less than minimum wage; typically, they pay 50% of the prevailing wage for the job.

    The Extended Employment Sheltered Workshops program of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Division of Special Education, funds about 20% of workshop budgets in Missouri. The legislation was passed back in the late 1960s, thanks to the efforts of numerous concerned parents of children with mental retardation who were becoming adults.

    According to the Missouri Association of Sheltered Workshop Managers, the Missouri sheltered workshops operate primarily on an industrial model, where they generate most of their revenues from contracts for manufacturing work and some service contracts. In many other states, the per diem reimbursement rates from state government are much higher, because the program is more of a residential treatment and recreation center, with the work being secondary.

    But back to that tax bill: Another 10-15% of most sheltered workshops' budgets comes from local taxes authorized by the voters and administered by county SB 40 boards, called that because of the Missouri state legislature bill number that authorized them in 1968. Over the years, these boards have begun to provide funding for other organizations that provide services to individuals with developmental disabilities; but they started out primarily as a funding vehicle for sheltered workshops. About half of these boards are members of the Missouri Association of County Developmental Disabilities Boards. Each board is an independent body with its own tax rate, and allocates its funds independently.

    The local SB 40 boards are as follows:

    City of St. Louis -- St. Louis Office for Mental Retardation and/or Developmental Disability Resources (MR/&DD Office)
    St. Louis County -- Productive Living Board for St. Louis County Citizens with Developmental Disabilities (PLB)
    St. Charles County -- Developmental Disabilities Resource Board (DDRB)
    Jefferson County -- Developmental Disabilities Resource Board (JCDDRB)
    Franklin County -- Developmental Services of Franklin County

    These days, most of the agencies funded by these boards are not sheltered workshops, but community-support organizations. There has been some concern this diminishes the focus on sheltered workshops as a tax-supported employment initiative for the most severely disabled persons who need the programs.

    Nevertheless, we still have a large number of workshops in and around the St. Louis area; and several are good examples of regional cooperation in funding.

    In the City of St. Louis, there's:
    Industrial Aid at 4417 Oleatha Ave. in Tower Grove South;
    MERS Goodwill, one of the biggest ones, at 4140 Forest Park Pky. in the Central West End. Of course, MERS Goodwill is jointly funded by the St. Louis City, St. Louis County, and St. Charles County boards.
    Project Inc. at 6301 Manchester Ave. in Dogtown (Clayton-Tamm); and
    Worth Industries at 4124 N. Broadway on the North Riverfront.

    In St. Louis County, there's:
    Canterbury Enterprises at 7228 Weil Ave. in Shrewsbury. Canterbury is also jointly funded by the City and County boards.
    Lafayette Industries with two locations, the original at 179 Gaywood Dr. in Manchester; and
    Lafayette Industries North (formerly ITE Inc.) at 4621 World Parkway Circle in Berkeley.
    Valley Industries at 143 B McDonnell Blvd. in Hazelwood; and
    W.A.C. Industries at 8520 Mackenzie Rd. in Affton, another very large operation, also jointly funded by City and County.

    In St. Charles County, there's Boone Center, Inc. at 200 Trade Center Drive in St. Peters. In addition to Boone and MERS Goodwill, the St. Charles board also funds TEMCO, Inc., a division of Emmaus Homes located on their Marthasville campus at 2245 Highway D in Warren County.
    The Franklin County and Warren County boards don't have websites, but they appear to support the TEMCO facility to some extent as well. Warren County also has another workshop, called Warren County Sheltered Workshop (no website?), located in Warrenton at 1760 HGP Ave.

    In Jefferson County, there's Jeffco Subcontracting at 2065 Pomme Rd. in Arnold. JSI is the only workshop in the county, and the only workshop funded by the Jefferson County board.

    In Franklin County, there's:
    Sheltered Workshop, Inc. at 1600 West Main in Washington; and
    Sheltered Industries of Meramec Valley located in Sullivan.

    The Franklin County board also seems to help fund River Bluff Industries located in Hermann (Gasconade County), and already mentioned TEMCO in Marthasville (Warren County).

    Also in St. Louis County you'll find a workshop for individuals who are blind, called Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. which has two locations:
    10440 Trenton Ave. in Overland; and
    8833 Fleischer in Berkeley.

    LHB is not a DESE Sheltered Workshop, so it does not get State or Local funding. What it DOES get, as do some of the sheltered workshops, is Federal contracts.

    Under legislation dating to the late 1930s, workshops for the blind (and since the 1970s, those sheltered workshops for the severely handicapped) are eligible for special preference in Federal government contracting. (They also qualify for five points extra consideration in State of Missouri contracting, which is why you'll see that Warren County Sheltered Workshop has the maintenance contract for the I-70 rest areas near Wright City, and indeed most rest areas are maintained by workshops in Missouri.)

    The Federal program for workshop contracts has long been called JWOD in honor of the sponsors of the legislation, all from New York: Senator Jacob Javits in 1971, and House members Wagner and O'Day in 1938. The name is changing to AbilityOne. The program is administered by a group ominously called "The Committee," a group of top Federal bureaucrats appointed by the President. (Its full title is a mouthful: The Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled.)

    Like Federal Prison Industries (aka Unicor), JWOD/AbilityOne is what is known as a "required source of supply" for Federal agencies. This means that if Unicor or a JWOD workshop offers the item for sale, Federal agencies must buy it from them. Unicor often issues waivers to this rule.... but The Committee does not do so as often.

    To get on the JWOD Procurement List, workshops must become affiliates of either National Industries for the Blind (NIB) (which happens to have its national technical center in Earth City) or National Industries for the Severely Handicapped (NISH). While there is no fee for affiliation, once a workshop gets a contract, they must pay back 4% of that contract to NIB or NISH.

    LHB, of course, is a NIB affiliate -- and they got over $8 million in Federal contracts just in Fiscal Year 2006. Most of the local Sheltered Workshops are NISH affiliates, but only one has the capacity to offer JWOD products/services: MERS Goodwill, DBA MGI Services. In FY '06, MGI Services got about $400k in JWOD contracts, mostly cleaning Federal buildings. JWOD products are marketed to Federal buyers under the brand name Skilcraft.

    The world of sheltered workshops is a little-known aspect of the government; arguably, it's not really part of the government at all, but given that these dozens of independent non-profits receive state and local tax dollars, as well as state and federal contracts in some cases, it is surprising how little attention they get. Most seem to be doing a great job in employing individuals who probably would have a great deal of difficulty getting and keeping jobs in traditional settings.


    This is my first post in a new blog, appropriately entitled Government Contracting St. Louis.

    This will be an unofficial repository for my commentaries and observations on the nature of contracting with Federal, State and Local government.

    I will also use this forum to periodically promote events sponsored by my organization, the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (MO PTAC), and partner agencies including the Missouri Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) and the US Small Business Administration (SBA) St. Louis District Office.

    I have been blogging since 2003 on various local public policy issues in the St. Louis area. This forum will be something of an extension of my other efforts, but focused on providing concrete, helpful advice to small business owners interested in government contracting.