Active Duty: Doing Business With Uncle Sam

PTACs help finishers get military, government contracts

Dona Burkard’s left a nice job at General Motors to go to work for her husband’s surface finishing business with one thing in mind: get Burkard Industries more work from the military.
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DETROIT -- Dona Burkard’s left a nice job at General Motors to go to work for her husband’s surface finishing business with one thing in mind: get Burkard Industries more work from the military.


“That was the goal from Day 1,” says Dona Burkard, who is vice president of the company just outside of Detroit. Although Burkard was electrocoating parts for the military for years, it was not working directly with the government as a contractor


Her husband, Jay, the great-grandson of the founder, is the president of the firm, had just invested $5 million in an electro coating finishing product in hopes of garnering more military work, on top of the work they were doing for Daimler Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Harley Davidson, Freightliner, Peterbuilt Mack Trucks, John Deere, Honda, Toyota and Volkswagen.


But when Dona began looking at ways to get business from the military for Burkard’s CARC line, she quickly found there were no easy answers, and yet lots of people willing to take her money to assist in landing government contracts.


“Basically, they wanted money from me to put me in a database,” she says. “I knew that was not going to be good enough. I started looking around because I knew there was a system I had to learn.”


With a master of engineering management degree under her belt, Burkard networked with other business owners until she came across a program in her own community that she knew very little about: a Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) that was housed at Macomb Community College and administered by the Macomb County Planning & Economic Development Committee.


The Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) was authorized by Congress in 1985 in an effort to expand the number of businesses capable of participating in the government marketplace. Administered by the Department of Defense’s Defense Logistics Agency, the program provides matching funds through cooperative agreements with state and local governments and non-profit organizations for the establishment of PTACs to provide procurement assistance.


Some PTACs are administered directly by state governments; others partner with universities, community colleges, local economic development corporations or other local institutions. Many are affiliated in some way with Small Business Development Centers and other small business programs. All PTACs are staffed with counselors experienced in government contracting, and provide a wide range of services including classes and seminars, individual counseling and easy access to bid opportunities, contract specifications, procurement histories, and other information necessary to successfully compete for government contracts.


Many have found success, for example, as at least 38 metro Detroit companies landed first-time government contracts in the first quarter of 2010 worth nearly $3 million, according to Michigan’s PTAC program.


Before long, PTAC helped the Burkards not only understand not just how to do business with the government, but also how to improve their chances for being selected as a contractor.


As a result, the company was the first in the Detroit area to be approved for pretreatment by the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Command (TACOM), and has become an approved supplier for Oshkosh, BAE Systems, AM General and General Dynamics Land Systems. They now employing more than 100 employees, and are planning to continue to diversify.


“We appreciate the assistance the state of Michigan PTAC and MEDC offices have provided to enable us to diversify our business,” says Jay Burkard, who company was the recipient of the “Michigan 50 Companies to Watch” award this year for their growth.


“The state of Michigan has done a very good job of supporting small businesses in their diversification efforts,” Dona Burkard says.


Information contributed by the Macomb County Dept of Planning & Economic Development office.



The Procurement Technical Assistance Program

Visit www.aptac-us.org/new/Govt_Contracting/overview.php to learn about the

94 PTACs with over 300 local offices.