by Connor Hill, GovDirections Intern

In order for local governments to improve and maintain their communities, elected officials allocate revenues to projects and equipment prioritized along citizen goals. This article compares cities and their capital spending plans for Parks and Recreation goals in several southeastern states. The goal is to draw comparison between these local governments so trends can be identifies and private companies providing those work for those projects and equipment can better estimate profitable areas of business opportunity.

The data has been gathered form approved budgets for the current or upcoming fiscal years. The data comes directly from each local government’s operating budgets and Capital Improvement Plans (CIPS). To accommodate for differences in population, comparisons are made on a per capita scale so that we can determine average spending per citizen. This is an acceptable methodology to allow the development of benchmarks that can show differences and develop spending projections on a regional or state basis.


Table I
States Analyzed

North Carolina
South Carolina (Highest per capita)
Florida (Lowest per capita)

Table I shows a list of the states where data was pulled. Overall, we found that local governments plan to spend a per capita average of $50.36. The highest per capita spending was found in South Carolina and the lowest in Florida.

BaseballGovernments Plan to Spend on Recreation


South Carolina is a starting point for this analysis, because among the southeastern cities Columbia[i] and Charleston[ii] plan to spend the most budget funds per capita on Parks and Recreation. Thus, making them an outlier in the data collection. Columbia ranking number one at $147.72 per capita, and Charleston following with $123.44. This trend alone shows that these two cities of nearly identical populations are very similar in their plans for Parks and Recreation.

Table II
South Carolina Projects

Park Restoration/Refurb- $15,432,700
Arts Center Facility- $1,150,000
Small Park Space- $1,981,559
Structure Demolition & Park Creation- $1,850,025
Lake Renovation- $6,134,090

This trend is quite similar to one that is visible in the state of Florida. However, there are some differences.


Florida is located on the opposite side of the spectrum of per capita spending. The cities of Tallahassee[i] and Jacksonville[ii] rank the lowest in intended per capita spending for Parks and Recreation. Tallahassee ranking lowest at $5.11 per capita, and Jacksonville ranking slightly higher at $7.12. These cities of incredibly different population sizes are choosing to spend similar amounts of money per capita on Parks and Recreation. This trend is intended to continue for several years, which can be seen in the future plans laid out in each city’s budget.

Florida Projects

Sports Center Lights- $278,000
Facility Maintenance- $953,000
Park Upgrades- $1,655,105
Park Amenities- $1,000,000
Pool Construction- $150,000

The connecting trend that is visible here is that cities of any population size will allocate a similar amount of funds to their Parks and Recreation departments, if they are outliers when compared to other cities of states in their region. This process may be fueled by an overarching state plan for Parks and Recreation that each city is following, or even attempts to grow their departments versus just maintaining what they have. The higher spending states choosing to grow their departments, and the lower spending choosing to simply maintain what they have. The trend is subject to change however, if a city that is choosing to grow reaches its intended growth point before another in its state. For example, P&R spending in Columbia is intended to decrease in 2018 after most likely reaching their intended growth point. The Charleston will continue growing their P&R department, but will quickly begin decreasing after 2019.

Both Florida and South Carolina are outliers in the data, but other states still have large projects they are implementing. Table IV shows projects in the cities that are closer to the average ($50.36) in terms of per capita spending.

Cities                                       Projects

Nashville, Tennessee         Open Space Creation- $18,000,000
Baton Rouge, Louisiana         River Center Improvements- $500,000
Savannah, Georgia                     Park Upgrades- $410,000
Raleigh, North Carolina        Aquatic Improvements- $1,500,000

[I] Columbia Budget
[II] Charleston Budget
[III] Tallahassee Budget
[IV] Jacksonville Budget

Request for Proposal: Learn to Read an RFP

This article identifies the structure of a request for proposal. The attached video walks through each section and explain its importance. An actual RFP is used as an example to identify each section.

Knowledge is Experience

What is a request for proposal?

A request for proposal (RFP) is a solicitation, often made through a bidding process, by an agency or company interested in procurement of a commodity, service or valuable asset, to potential suppliers to submit business proposals.

What are the parts of an RFP?

  • State of Work
  • Technical Specifications
  • Schedule
  • List of Deliverables
  • Contract Terms and Conditions
  • Format of Proposal
  • Qualification and Experience
  • Cost Breakdown
  • Evaluation Criteria

The video is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aZRwaZuP5Y

State Government Bids in 2016

State government bids and requests for proposals will set record spending levels the first quarter of 2016. Strong state government budgets are fueling pent up projects. In addition, some states will be dealing with technology issues such as Georgia’s credit monitoring caused by a release of critical data. South Carolina spent $50 million with a similar breach occurred.


Local Governments
State Activity

State spending in 2016 is expected to pass 1.5 trillion so get ready to win state government contracts by monitoring GovDirections.



Government bids issued by local, state and federal agencies:

Title Due Date State Type
Document Destruction and Disposal Services Jan 11, 2016 MO State or Local Bid
Panasonic PT-DZ21K 3-Chip DLP Projector & Panasoni Dec 16, 2015 CO State or Local Bid
Janitorial Services Jan 7, 2016 MO State or Local Bid
Children’s Pediatric Ebola Region 8 Dec 16, 2015 CO State or Local Bid
License Plate Bags Dec 16, 2015 CO State or Local Bid
Crushed Granite  Dec 16, 2015 CO State or Local Bid
Produce Dec 16, 2015 CO State or Local Bid
Glass and Shield P72 Dec 28, 2015 CA State or Local Bid
CDPS, CSP, Challenge Coins, Symbol Arts Dec 15, 2015 CO State or Local Bid
Renewable Diesel  Jan 4, 2016 CA State or Local Bid
Auto Parts – Sole Source for AutoZone, NAPA, and O’Reilly Dec 15, 2015 CO State or Local Bid
Modular Office Rental Jan 8, 2016 CA State or Local Bid
Chemical Agents / Munitions Dec 15, 2015 CO State or Local Bid
Pedestrian Signal Equipment Jan 8, 2016 CA State or Local Bid
Seeking a Qualified Consulting Firm to assist with resilience/sustainability elements Dec 23, 2015 MN State or Local Bid
Concrete, Curbs, Gutters, Sidewalks Jan 14, 2016 CA State or Local Bid
School Units Jan 8, 2016 CA State or Local Bid
Misc. Construction Jan 6, 2016 NY State or Local Bid
Creation of Evidence-Based Medical Standards Dec 22, 2015 NY State or Local Bid
Tanker Truck RFP Dec 23, 2015 MN State or Local Bid
Solid Waste Transfer Station Operations Jan 8, 2016 VA State or Local Bid
Reconstruction of Playground & Seating Area Jan 13, 2016 NY State or Local Bid
Diving Services  Apr 21, 2016 VA State or Local Bid
Complete Design, Drawings & Expediter Services for Installation of Fire Alarm Jan 8, 2016 NY State or Local Bid
IT Penetration Testing Services Dec 17, 2015 NY State or Local Bid
Screening #10 Asphalt Filler and #8 Stone  Jan 21, 2016 VA State or Local Bid
Green Infrastructure, Maintenance of On-Site & Pilot Practices Dec 22, 2015 NY State or Local Bid
Fabrication and Installation of High End Museum Casework Jan 3, 2016 VA State or Local Bid
Reservoir Street Project Jan 26, 2016 VA State or Local Bid
Dam Rehab Jan 14, 2016 NY State or Local Bid
Night VIsion Systems  Dec 30, 2015 VA State or Local Bid
Personalized MS Math Program Jan 14, 2016 NY State or Local Bid
Green Physical Needs Assessment and Energy Audit Jan 12, 2016 VA State or Local Bid
Commercial Opportunity Mar 17, 2016 NY State or Local Bid
EMS Billing Services Jan 14, 2016 VA State or Local Bid
Resident Engineering Inspection Services Jan 14, 2016 NY State or Local Bid
Consultant Services  Dec 29, 2015 VA State or Local Bid
Truck, Mobile Paper Shredder Dec 21, 2015 NY State or Local Bid
Response to Intervention Tool for Elementary Mathematics Jan 5, 2016 VA State or Local Bid
Evaluation and State Epidemiological Workgroup Jan 12, 2016 VA State or Local Bid
Consulting Engineering Services Dec 29, 2015 NY State or Local Bid
Force Feed Loaders Jan 8, 2016 VA State or Local Bid

Finding State and Local Contracts Early

Are you reading a request for proposal and thinking “geez this sure looks like my competitor wrote the RFP?” Well, they just might have.

The local, state and federal government contracting stage is much longer than simply the open period for responses. The process often starts years in advance with capital improvement planning. These plans move forward to the active budget planning stage where local procurement specialists start inquiring about cost proposals. The actual cost estimations may come from comparable local government projects (and those local officials), but may also come from directly from vendors.

Budgets: The Best Lead Source

Monitoring local government budgets for upcoming plans is a simple way to learn about these projects early. The first document to watch is the capital improvement budget. GovDirections monitors CIP plans and publishes links to those documents online. They are reviewed by analysts with experience in public budget reviews. The second document to watch is the actual fiscal or calendar year budget. These budgets will general publish line item acquisition plans. GovDirections expert staff reads through these public budgets and publishes those items online.

Finding state and local contracts early in the opportunity stage is one of the best way to win new government business. So next time the RFP is issued – make your competition think you help designed the proposal document!

Why You Should Go for Government Contracting

As a small business owner, do you understand the ways government contracting can benefit your company? Our government is the single largest purchaser of goods and services in the world.

As a small business owner, you know the importance of attracting the right clientele for growth. You also know that if you have a thorough understanding of your client base and their needs, pain points, and budget concerns, you will be able to turn those clients into loyal customers and, in the best case scenarios, brand promoters.

While this will be different for every business, based on the services and products they sell, one thing is for certain. If you can land the government as a client, you are golden.

You may be asking why these contracts are so highly sought after. We are here to tell you why federal contracts are good for your small business and which small business industries could benefit the most.

Why are these contracts so good for entrepreneurs?
For many industries, a government contract can benefit your small business in both long term and short-term ways. With the government on your side, you will increase your revenue (short-term) and, more importantly, boost your brand (long-term, which can lead to a long-term revenue increase).

Another important aspect of having the government on your side is the impression this will give to customers and potential clients. If people see that the federal government trusts you, they will be more likely to feel comfortable using your services for their own projects.

Too good to be true?
Now you know what is attractive about landing a contract with the government for your company, but you are probably wondering how attainable it is.

The federal law requires that about 23 percent of all contract dollars go to small businesses and, with the U.S. spending about 500 billion dollars on these contracts, that means there are major dollars given to small businesses all over the country.

As an entrepreneur, this is a great opportunity! Not only will the government prove to be one of the best clients you could possibly land, but you will feel safe, as their payments are guaranteed to be prompt and consistent.

Now, this isn’t to say that the process is super easy; don’t let us fool you. Not just any entrepreneur should apply. But, if your industry can seriously help the government or provide the government with a handy service, you should definitely try to reach out and take advantage of these contracts.

Research beforehand.
Before you set out to land a contract, make sure to study all the regulations surrounding the contracts. Yes, as a small business owner you are busy – we understand that – but we promise this isn’t a waste of time!

Make sure you realize what these contracts entail, and ensure they are right for you and your business. While, yes, there is a ton of money out there available to the right small businesses, these contracts aren’t right for every entrepreneur.

Some industries just aren’t useful to the government. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that only construction or military businesses will receive these contracts. You may be surprised at how many small businesses across the country are rewarded with federal contracts.

Make sure you research and learn about all possible opportunities for your small business. If you find that your company can provide a service that the government lists, then it is worth your time and effort to try to win that bid.

How to Win Government Contract Bids
Once you decide that you can provide the U.S. with all your awesome services, the next step is to do the necessary research and land that win! Here are five winning tips that your company should take advantage of:

• Get certified.
Becoming certified will increase your chance of winning a contract. It will set you apart from the competition, and you can become certified based on specifics to your company. If you are a minority, women, or veteran owned/operated business, there are plenty of programs available to aid you in your certification.

• Be targeted.
This is important for a win. Target your services or needs to fit exactly what the government needs.

• Market yourself.
Make sure to market your business. Get your foot in the door and reach out to agencies contracting offices. Network. Get your company’s name out there and in people’s minds.

• Identify opportunities.
Once you have determined the agencies most likely to buy from you, now is the time to bid on contracts. Use all tools available to you, and stay in close contact with agency offices.

Tips for Landing Government Contracts Fast

When federal spending is up, as it is now, that creates a great opportunity for government contractors and for small and developing businesses. These contracts can help small businesses get the head start they need, but landing a contract for your firm can be tricky. Knowing all you can about the process will help your success in obtaining federal contracts.

Here’s what you need to familiarize yourself with so that you go for the contract that makes sense for your business:

• Know the rules.
Selling to the government is much different than selling to the private sector. Familiarize yourself with all that ‘s involved, as federal contracts have different bidding and product requirements, and longer lead times.

• Understand what the government is buying.
Every business has its own unique goals. Understanding your own business goals and strategies will help you target the right opportunity for your products/services.

What the federal government intends to buy and how much they are going to spend is all in the public domain. These budgets offer small business owners the chance to identify opportunities, and focus their sales and marketing strategies accordingly. Each federal agency budget is listed on the Office of Management and Budget website.

• Zero in on agencies that aren’t meeting their goals.
Every year the SBA ensures that small businesses get their fair share of federal contracts to make sure that goals are met. Again, all this information is available for public viewing. Take a look to see if your business could possibly lend its products/ services to an agency to help them hit their target.

• Research existing opportunities.
Once you’ve identified any prospects with agencies that align with your business goals, start researching upcoming and/or existing opportunities that may become available to you and your firm.

• Hit the ground running.
Make it a point to attend agency or industry-specific government-held events. These will attract the right influencers and industry experts. These events are worth checking because you can use your networking skills to link with people who could aid you to land that contract.

Though government contracts can greatly benefit entrepreneurs, landing one can be tough. You need to be well-versed in the world of federal contracting to achieve what you want. The problem is that to obtain a contract can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months. That is a huge amount of time for those emerging businesses that need cash fast.

However, there are ways in which you can speed the process up; you just need to utilize the right tricks. Here we provide you with five tips for not only landing you a government contract, but also landing it as quickly as possible:

1. Take advantage of special programs.
If your business is women-owned or minority-owned, or even economically disadvantaged, all have a leading edge when it comes to landing contracts. Additionally, businesses that maintain their primary office(s) in historical or underutilized business districts or zones have another advantage over the rest.

Check out any other regulations that your business may qualify for. By taking advantage of these programs, your business will have a better chance of being favored over other businesses.

2. Get certified.
Becoming certified will better help your business. Businesses that are owned 51 percent by women or veterans will receive preferential treatment. To get certified, reach out to organizations that your state provides for women, minorities, and disadvantaged business owners.

If you don’t want to certify through an organization, you can also self-certify through individual contract proposals.

3. Exploit all programs possible.
If your business qualifies for any programs, don’t be afraid to apply to multiple certifications. You may be able to reap all the benefits from all applicable contract opportunities.

4. Become a subcontractor.
Federal agencies like to give contracts to firms that have an established track record. To help your business establish as track record, seek out work as a subcontractor for a business that is working on a major government contract.

To connect with subcontractors, attend local business matchmaking events that aim to link businesses with varying government and corporate procurement officers.

5. Get a mentor.
This networking trick will take you far, and could potentially lead you and your business to subcontract opportunists or even contracts. Through programs and organizations, meet similar business owners and become a protégé to a larger firm that is already working with the government. You will then get your foot in the door and become a better candidate in the government’s eyes. You can also go to big contractors directly and offer to “study” under them.

The Process of Government Contracting Step by Step

It is not uncommon for small businesses and entrepreneurs to offer services and products to sell to the government. They will often strive to make the sale happen; however, most of the time they have no idea of the process of government contracting itself.

Even though the government is the world’s largest consumer, it is a totally different world than the commercial space. So, selling to the government means you need to obtain a completely different knowledge and skill set then you have had before.

If you want to successfully sell your goods and services to the government, it is helpful to know and understand the process. Without at least a basic knowledge of the practice, you could put your business in potential danger.

Below is a short explanation of the overall process. Keep in mind that bids that are either very large or very small will probably have a different practice, but this serves as a general guideline.

If you’re a business owner looking to enter the world of government contracting, this will provide you with a good place to start.

Step One
We can’t say this enough. Plan, plan, and plan some more. Along with extensive planning, you will need to conduct research. These two basics will better equip you with the proper way to go about securing government contracts.

This is the most crucial first step you can take. Without the proper planning and research, you will have a harder time adjusting to the process.

Step Two
Once you’ve obtained all the basic knowledge you can, now is the time to respond to and Invitation for Bid or IFB. This is either a written or electronic document that is issued by an agency that includes all the vital information you need to determine if this is the correct one for your company to pursue, and, if so, how to submit your bid.

IFBs should always include a thorough description of the service or product the agency is looking for. Additionally it should list all the purchasing conditions, type of contract, and delivery schedule.

It is important to note that you should be prepared in advance. This means that the company description, service/product description, and character references should all be ready ahead of time. This will enable you to turn around a bid quickly and efficiently.

Please keep in mind that an IFB is different than a Request for Quote (RFQ) and a Request for Proposal (RFP). An RFQ is specifically issued against the General Services Administration Multiple Award Schedule Program, whereas the RFP is a broader request and more open-ended than an IFB; RFBs are used for projects where the government is looking to the contractor community for strategy ideas.

Step Three
Now is time for the bid submission. All the planning and research you should have done (see step one) prepares you for this. You should now understand the overall market for your services/products, along with your target agency’s history of buying.

Keep in mind that your prospect isn’t always looking for the lowest price. Be sure to adequately price your company based on quality and experience. Government agencies focus more on experience, and value customers’ positive past performances and stability.

The government wants to trust that you and your company will get the job done efficiently, rather than save a few bucks here and there.

Step Four
After you submit your bid, it is likely that you will be asked for more information. This could mean that you will get asked to give an oral presentation.

This presentation may be asked of you if the agency wants to make a decision between two or three bidders. You will want to go over details of the bid and describe how the work will be accomplished.

These oral presentations are usually more common with RFBs, but all vendors should be prepared to give one.

Step Five
Throughout the entire decision process, keep in mind that the government agency will most likely keep asking for more information. Take this as a good sign! They are interested enough to keep requesting additional information, so make sure to accommodate them and provide all of their needs.

Additional Steps
Once the federal agency makes their decision and your contract is rewarded, you will then be in regular communication with the agency. Both parties need to communicate to set up initial meetings, deadlines, and all the other gritty details.

Remember, as we stated before, the government puts a high emphasis on past performance. So strive to do an outstanding job, so you can later use that reference to continue to build your government business, one contract at a time!

Networking and Government Contracting

Government contracts will help your small business in many ways, but the process of winning a bid can be a long and tiring one. There are unspeakable amounts of paperwork, you have to search through tons of contracts to find the ones that your business has useful goods and services for, and, on top of that, you should learn the correct language to understand everything clearly.

These are all important aspects of landing your contract, but what usually gets left out is the fact that business, even the government side, is all about human interactions and learning how to use those to your advantage.

Build Lasting Human Relationships

Even though the government can seem impersonal, relationships are very important for securing a government contract and for the agency contracts you may wish to pursue in the far-off future. Cold calls and databases can only take you so far.

Even though the process of winning a bid relies on heavy paperwork, you need to get out of the office and network. You want to meet (in person, if possible) important people who will assist in the decision-making both within the government and in the large contractors.

The best way to go about meeting the right people who will help you is to choose between a couple of agencies where you believe you can do work. Go to any events you can to learn about opportunities and to network with these people.

Perhaps the prospect of making these human interactions scares you, or you are not familiar with the correct etiquette. Here we equip you with the best networking tips so you can work any room or event and come out a winner (so to speak).

Networking Tips and Tricks

1. Know who’s who.
It is important to know exactly to whom you are talking. Remember that there are many key players who can potentially help you land a contract with the government.

Whether you are talking to another business owner, or someone high up on the federal ladder, know how to communicate with them properly. Know how they can potentially help your firm. The way you communicate with each person at these events will differ according to their specific roles.

You should do your research before the event and know how to correctly approach different people.

2. Be yourself.
Much like your company needs its own identity to set it apart from others, you need your own personality to set you apart – in a good way. If you try to be something you are not, this will show and not make a good first impression.

Anyone speaking with you, and anyone who potentially will conduct business with you, should feel comfortable and should never have to question if you are genuine or not.

3. Only discuss what is set in stone.
While it is easy as an entrepreneur to get excited and discuss future products or services that may help a contractor, don’t get ahead of yourself. Be sure to only speak about services that are available now: something they can benefit from immediately.

4. Follow up.
This is highly important when building these relationships. Make sure you follow up to stay on important influencers’ radars. Always ask for a business card so you have all of their contact information right in your hand.

To further your connections, shoot them an email to follow up. Message them via LinkedIn – anything that will keep you in their memory as a potential client.

5. Prepare.
This is an especially helpful tool if you are nervous. Prepare by doing research on key people who may be there. Think of some ice breakers beforehand. Practice your handshake and pick out a professional outfit that you feel confident in ahead of time.

Taking all these measures ahead of time will help calm your nerves and allow you to feel more confident when you enter the event.

6. Practice good listening.
What is just as important in any conversation is the ability to listen. It is always refreshing to have a conversation partner who knows when to speak and when to listen. Plus, talking too much with little to no listening skills will end up coming across as rude. That is something you want to avoid when making a vital connection that can help your business’s future.

Once you have these under your belt, feel confident when going to agency events. Meet people who may help you secure the correct contract for your company, and enjoy finally being able to land on the government’s payroll.

Insider Tips for Government Contracting

You would be surprised at how much the government spends a year on private-sector contractors – about 500 billion dollars! Half a trillion dollars is a huge amount and, as a small business owner, you probably want a piece of that pie!

However, it is hard to land a government contract. It is all about who you know and playing the game by the rules. When an agency puts out a request for proposals or RFP, it is vitally important to respond with accuracy. If you do not provide the agency with the right information, communicate with the right contracting office, and with the right goods/services required by the agency, you have a slim chance of winning the bid.

Government contracting is a meticulous game to play, but, when done correctly, your business can reap many rewards. While it is good to know all the rules, regulations, and methods to secure these contracts, it is also beneficial to gain an edge over your competition.

There are several small yet significant steps any business can take to help land that government deal. Below we provide you with insider tips to help you and your business succeed:

1. Find a mentor.
As a business, you have probably found your niche. Creating something that is specific but at the same time needed will take you far. What will help your services even more is knowing the right people who may need your goods or products themselves or know of someone who needs them.

Take this extreme example from NFIB. In 2000, the Navy went looking for new technologies to protect its fleet after an attack on USS Cole. It just so happened that an engineering firm outside of Massachusetts created a product that could use technology to stop cross-compartment flooding.

Although the engineering company had a narrow niche, the Navy was in dire need, and they had it. What does this have to do with landing government contracts for small businesses, you ask?

Well, the deal was secured through a friend on the inside. Although this key player wasn’t a decision maker, he paved the way for the deal. Likewise, a friend might not win you the contract, but they can lead you in the correct direction.

While tried and true, it really is all about those you know. So, make those connections in the community. Network at government agency events. Getting yourself out there, and your company being on the right people’s radar may secure you the contract you need.

2. Talk the talk.
You may not realize it, but language can serve as a huge barrier when it comes to securing your government contract. Government solicitation usually contains hundreds of acronyms that are hardly ever spelled out. Plus, there are about 60,000 of those acronyms.

When you don’t know these, you can potentially damage your credibility, misread criteria that can lead to losing a contract, or worse, win one you wish you hadn’t.

Before you get ready to walk the walk, take the time to research and study the talk. Learning the lingo before your small businesses responds to an RTF will greatly help you.

You don’t want to ruin your company’s reputation, especially because the government looks heavily on past experience. Secondly, you don’t want to get into an agreement with the wrong agency or in a contract that is not what you initially thought.

3. Answer the question asked.
In eager attempts, small businesses will often hand out too much information to an agency when responding to a bid. While businesses may think this is helpful, what they don’t realize is that it usually fails to answer the question.

This disconnect between what is asked for and what is delivered can cost you that coveted contract. Businesses need to strive to clearly answer the question that is asked of them.

The government is the one deciding what it needs and defining the need as it sees fit. When your company prepares proposals, avoid not responding fully or attempting to “sell” the government what your company has to offer.

Instead, remember to answer the particular requests or questions the government asked for. When you don’t, it is called leaving the mail unanswered, and it will not get you any closer to landing that contract.

What is important to take away from these insider tips is that if your small business can answer the mail, talk the talk, and find a mentor, then you will have a better than average chance of receiving your piece of the government pie.