1. What does the government buy?

Federal, state, and local government agencies buy everything from cleaning services to spaceships and cancer research, and much more. The key is to determine which government agencies buy the goods and/or services you sell and how they buy them.  Understanding this, you can develop a marketing strategy targeting those agencies. The University of Houston Procurement Technical Assistance Center (UH PTAC) can help you identify potential government customers and learn how to market your goods and services to them.

2. Does the government always award the contract to the low bidder?

No. In many instances the government awards the contract to the company that provides the best value, and this does not necessarily mean the company offering the lowest price. Other factors such as technical capability, past performance, and quality may also be considered. UH PTAC can help you interpret a Request for Quote, Invitation for Bid, and Request for Proposal, so that you understand which evaluation factors will be used in determining who is selected for contract award.

3. Does the government pay on time?

Provided your shipping and invoicing documentation is correct and complete, you can expect a timely payment, usually within 30 days or less.  Federal agencies offer a prompt payment in return for you offering a discounted price off your invoice.  The prompt payment is optional for you to offer to receive an earlier payment date.  Government agencies use Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) to speed up the payment process.

4. Do I need to be on a GSA schedule in order to do business with the government?

No. Think of the General Services Administration (GSA) as a buying activity for other federal government agencies. GSA awards “schedules” or long-term contracts to vendors who provide certain goods and services required by those agencies. Then, when the agencies have a need for a particular good or service, they can buy it from one of the vendors on the schedule for the per-determined price.  A vendor might get lots of business by being on a GSA schedule, or none - there are no guarantees. UH PTAC can help you determine if your company is a good candidate to apply for a GSA schedule as well as help you through the application process.

5. Do I need to be certified in order to bid on government contracts?

No. The government does not require any general certification for a company to be eligible to bid on contracts. Companies must meet all requirement(s) of each solicitation. Some solicitations may be "set aside" or have subcontracting goals for companies that have socio and economically disadvantages - like being small - or for individuals that hold certain certifications, such as minorities, women, and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business. Some companies may qualify for certifications that may afford preference on certain contracts or may increase the opportunity for subcontracting opportunities.  UH PTAC can educate you on the eligibility and application process for federal, state, and local government certification programs.

6. What are the federal government's small business certifications?


8(a) – The SBA's Section 8(a) Business Development Program - named for a section of the Small Business Act, is a business development program created to help small disadvantaged businesses compete in the American economy and access the federal procurement market.  

To be eligible, the applicant firm:

  • must be a for-profit small business.
  • must be 51% or more unconditionally owned and controlled by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged individuals who are of good character and citizens of the United States.
  • must demonstrate potential for success.
  • must have a personal net worth of $750,000 or less, gross income for three years is $350,000 or less, and assets of $6M or less. 
  • must have been in business for 2 years (evidence by tax returns.)

Visit SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program website. 

  SDB – Small Disadvantaged Business status is now a self-certifying process. In order to claim the SDB status, a small business must be at least 51% owned and controlled by a socially and economically disadvantaged individual or individuals. African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, Subcontinent Asian Americans, and Native Americans are presumed to quality. Other individuals can qualify if they show by a "preponderance of the evidence" that they are disadvantaged. All individuals must have a net worth of less than $750,000, excluding the equity of the business and primary residence. Successful applicants must also meet applicable size standards for small businesses in their industry.

  HUBZone - The HUBZone Empowerment Contracting Program was adopted to stimulate economic development and create jobs in urban and rural communities by providing federal contracting preferences to small businesses. These preferences go to small businesses that obtain HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zone) certification in part by employing staff that live in a HUBZone and maintain a "principal office" in one of these specially designated areas. [A principal office can be different from a company headquarters]. The program resulted from provisions contained in the Small Business Reauthorization Act of 1997. Visit the HUBZone website.

  WOSB - The Small Business Act authorizes contracting officers to specifically limit, or set aside, certain requirements for competition solely among women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) or economically disadvantaged women owned small businesses (EDWOSBs). This is referred to as the WOSB Program. Visit the WOSB website

   * The 8(a), HUBZone, and WOSB programs requires companies to be certified by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).


7. What is SAM?

The System for Award Management (SAM) is the official registration required prior to bidding on a contract with any federal government agency. It is the primary registrant database for the U.S. Federal Government.  SAM collects, validates, stores and disseminates data in support of agency acquisition missions. SAM uses this information to perform Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). This requirement covers all federal agencies.

8. How do I register for SAM?

Registering online can be accomplished at https://www.sam.gov. This method is quick and user friendly. Click on the “help” tab and download the registration screenshots for more information.

9. Does registering in SAM market my company to the government?

No, registering in SAM does not market a company to government buyers. The SAM database collects information necessary for a government buying activity to contact or maintain contact with a company. This registration also provides the information necessary for the transfer of funds via electronic funds transfer (EFT).

10. Are there web sites where I can see what the government is buying?

Yes, federal, state, and local government have website they post opportunities:

a.  Federal government:  Visit SAM and select the domain "Contract Opportunities" to view federal government opportunities exceeding $25,000.

b. State government.  Visit the TX Comptroller Purchasing Electronic State Business Daily (ESBD) to view TX state opportunities exceeding $25,000.

c.  Local government.  Local government agencies are independent and each posts their opportunities primarily on their websites.  If you are interested in viewing a local government agency's opportunities, you can locate their website by conducting a Google search.  For example, if you are interested in viewing the City of Houston, use the search terms "City of Houston Procurement".  You can substitute any local-agency name followed by the words "Procurement" or "Purchasing" and the agency procurement/purchasing department will be the top hit.  The UH PTAC also maintains a list of local-government agency procurement websites.  Email us at uhapex@central.uh.edu with the subject "Request a copy of the local government list of procurement agencies" and we will gladly email it to you.

For more information, click here.