Cutting Tool Engineering
April 2009 / Volume 61 / Issue 4

Get your slice of the federal stimulus pie

By Keith Jennings

Because many machine shops aren’t seeing those frequent and reliable orders they’re accustomed to receiving, the time has to come to seek new sources of work to keep the chips flying. In light of this situation, you may want to secure a piece of the action at the public trough of federal, state and local government spending.

Varying opinions exist about the viability of such spending, but government may be the only growth industry for a while and there’s no reason you shouldn’t attempt to get a piece of the “stimulus pie.” This includes a wide assortment of projects, such as military components, infrastructure and green energy projects, and facilities construction and remodeling. However, before you can target these opportunities, you must lay some ground work to ensure your shop is on the list of approved government suppliers.

But how do you assure you’re receiving legitimate inquiries on which to bid? At the federal level, begin by registering as a government supplier. Thankfully, the Internet makes this easier than it used to be. Visit the Central Contractor Registration Web site at and follow the registration process to acquire an official federal supplier identification number, known as a “TPIN.” Your TPIN is the primary identification necessary to bid on federal and military projects. When registering, have your federal tax number and Dun & Bradstreet number handy.

Once your company is processed and approved, you can start scouring the federal landscape for projects that match your shop’s capabilities. Most of these projects are awarded to the lowest bidder, but not all. Sometimes delivery requirements or other factors can influence the final outcome, but a competitive price is certainly important.

How do you become aware of choice projects? This can be accomplished with a few techniques, including marketing and advertising. Many federal buyers search industrial directories, phone books and the Internet to locate appropriate suppliers. It may also be necessary to attend government supplier workshops.

Searching federal Web sites for projects and directly contacting the appropriate department is another method. Even knowing someone who knows someone in a federal agency can provide tips about work to pursue. If these free techniques aren’t successful, there are a multitude of private companies that help locate viable projects. Their fees and criteria vary, so you’ll want to conduct the appropriate due diligence to ensure they’re legitimate and an outfit you’re comfortable with.

Our shop has had a TPIN for a few years and performed a few jobs for federal agencies, but we’ve never used a private company. In our case, the work resulted from the agencies seeking services we provide.

How about state and local government opportunities? Many of the aforementioned techniques also apply at these levels. Begin by registering your business as a potential supplier and then entering your relevant SIC codes into a database. Usually, instructions are available online. This way, your company will appear as a “supplier” when procurement personnel seek specific products and services.

You can also call and attempt to speak with state and local agencies directly and set up an appointment. For example, we contacted our city’s purchasing director and landed a job making parts for parking meters. Do you have a university, school district, port or mass-transit system in the area? Call them, register with them and get in front of them. Persevere and don’t stop until you’re in their system and receiving inquiries. If you don’t, someone else will. CTE

About the Author: Keith Jennings is president of Crow Corp., Tomball, Texas, a family-owned company focusing on machining, laser cutting, metal fabrication and metal stamping. He can be e-mailed at
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