NORWICH — Kathy Pooler of Norwich, owner of Publications Plus, has bid on three state contracts in the 15 years she’s operated her one-person, home desktop publishing company in Norwich — with no success.
“It is very frustrating,” she said Tuesday, during a roundtable discussion on the plight of small businesses.
“You get on the list to bid for state contracts, attend a meeting with another 100 business owners that lasts two hours, you do the research, attend another meeting, put together a package and submit a bid, and then you attend another meeting to learn the state has revised its specifications.”
For a small home-based business, that process can consume a week’s worth of work, Pooler said, only to lose the contract to a company that can delegate an employee to do the work.
“If the state really wants to help small businesses,” she said, “what the state really needs is to have a category just for small businesses.”
Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz hosted Tuesday’s small business roundtable at Norwich City Hall to hear directly from small business owners about problems dealing with the state. It was the fifth such meeting her office has sponsored, one in each congressional district.
The purpose, Bysiewicz said, is to develop a legislative package to introduce in the coming General Assembly session, aimed at making it easier for small businesses to do business with the state.
“Each area of the state has its own specific concerns,” Bysiewicz said, after the 90-minute meeting, “but there are a number of common issues, such as utility costs, insurance issues and this issue of competing for contracts.”
State Rep. Melissa Olson, D-Norwich, Groton City Mayor Dennis Popp and Norwich Alderman Lawrence Goldman attended the meeting.
“Too often in the legislature, we get caught up with big corporate problems,” Olson said, “and sometimes we forget the needs of small businesses. So, it’s good to hear directly from small business owners.”
Popp suggested small businesses also not overlook municipal work, but added municipalities also need to do a better job of seeking small businesses out when contract services are needed.
Most state contracts are awarded with provisions for “set asides,” a portion of the contract intended to be subcontracted to small, women — and minority-owned businesses.
Marcellus Sharpe, president of C.C. Security in Norwich, said his problem with state contracts is that larger contractors rarely consider his services when deciding what services will make up the set-aside portions. C.C. Security provides traffic control for construction projects, courier services and security guards.
“Traffic control is usually the last thing they think about,” he said, adding his company is far more successful working with non-government companies.
Bysiewicz urged the business owners to take advantage of programs offered through or sponsored by her office, such as the Small Business Showcase that is geared specifically to allow small businesses an opportunity to make themselves known. A showcase is being planned for April in New London.
Reach Ray Hackett at 425-4225 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally published January 25, 2006
Reprinted with permission of the Norwich Bulletin