A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

The Takeoff: KYPTAC offers state’s entrepreneurs opportunities, access to government contract market

By Abby Ober
Blue North

As an entrepreneur, excelling in a crowded marketplace often can feel like a combination of planning, preparation, and outright luck. However, grinding to carve out your niche in an oft-crowded and – as the last year saw, at times unstable – marketplace can be exhausting of both your time and, unfortunately in some cases, finances.

There is, however, a marketplace that consistently presents startups and entrepreneurs an assortment of opportunities: Government contracts at the local, state and federal level. But unless you’re well-versed in legalese, navigating through it all may feel like a job in and of itself.

Enter the Kentucky Procurement Technical Assistance Center (KYPTAC), the Lexington-based one-stop shop where your only cost is the time you invest to help your business grow.

KYPTAC’s mission is simple: Grow Kentucky’s economy one small business at a time by assisting companies in the process of providing products/services to local, state and federal government agencies. Managed by the Kentucky Science & Technology Corporation (KTSC) as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and partially funded by the Defense Logistics Agency, the organization offers all its services free of charge to Kentucky businesses.

Not certain what services KYPTAC offers and the potential benefits for your business? KYPTAC Executive Director Nancy Brown, also a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) isn’t surprised given how many people have a narrow line of thinking when it comes to government contracts.

“When I started this position in 2016, I was very surprised and taken back by how there’s a huge gap in Kentucky with the number of businesses that are not aware that the government market is a good market for them to explore or expand into,” Brown said. “With the startup and small business community, we’re always exploring launching new products and services… The government market is a huge market. We’re talking about billions of dollars every year.”

Getting Kentucky a bigger share of those billions is why KYPTAC offers a multitude of services to help startups and small businesses become more familiar with the government contract application process. This includes things such as understanding basic government contracting procedures, subcontracting, breaking down the extensive Federal Acquisition Regulations and how to stay in compliance with evolving Small Business Administration (SBA) rules. “For someone who does not understand it very well, help break down the regulations in plain English,” Brown said.

The first step in accessing those funds, however, is helping business owners see how a government contract may be worth exploring.

“We start with what we call a market research process … In that session, we would look at your industry using our tools and (available) data over the last 3-5 years to see how much the government has bought in your industry in the past,” Brown said. “If the government has had a lot of purchases in the past under your industry or the products and the services that you sell, then we know that there’s a market for you. If they didn’t, there’s other ways that we can talk about and explore your options.”

Another big battle KYPTAC can help you overcome is thinking a government contract is limited to military-related endeavors.

“When you think about government contracting, the government buys everything from pencils and pens to aircraft and airplanes and weaponry and machinery. There’s a huge number of industries that we cover,” says Brown. “We want to make sure that Kentucky participates and plays on the same playing field as other states. We want to ensure that they compete in government marketplace as a sector.”

Brown said inclusiveness is a big focus for KYPTAC, which is why they seek opportunities to help women-, minority- and veteran-owned companies in accordance with the SBA’s historically underutilized business zone (“HUBzone”) program whenever possible. This not only helps underserved members of Kentucky’s business community grow, but also expands the economy throughout the Commonwealth. Another added bonus of such measures is feeding into diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives to attract and retain the talent needed to help Kentucky prosper as opposed to losing them to other cities.

Brown said KYPTAC is now looking into opening a regional office in Covington to help expand the organization’s services in Northern Kentucky. “It’s different when you have that face-to-face interaction and the one-on-one consulting to help businesses interact with the counselor or the consultant that we are about to hire,” she said.

Brown, a native of Jordan who moved to Kentucky 20 years ago, wants to see her adopted home thrive. If you are a startup or small business looking for a way to do the same, she hopes you’ll consider exploring the world of government contracts. Her organization is ready and would love to help.

“I love this country; this is really my home now. I take a lot of pride in helping communities across Kentucky thrive and grow,” she said. “I want to be able to create a world where we are, we have a sense of collaboration and sense of community, and we all can embrace the benefits that come with sharing information. For me to be able to learn government contracting and communicate that back to small businesses gives me a sense of fulfillment. I want to share information in a simplified manner and do it well to make sure that people think of Kentucky when those contracts are available.”

Blue North’s mission to empower startups and small businesses. Any questions are welcomed. Small business owners and entrepreneurs may contact Blue North here. This column by Blue North is a regular feature of the NKyTribune.

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