September 20, 2005
Doing Business with the Commonwealth
Joyce H. Krech
Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center
This year, the Commonwealth of Virginia will purchase more than $5 billion in materials, equipment, supplies, printing, and professional and non-professional services. For that reason, anyone who sells a product or service – of almost any
description - is a potential vendor to the Commonwealth. Locally, institutions such as James Madison University and Blue Ridge Community College can be important customers for the business community.
Have you explored doing business with the Commonwealth? If you think only the “big boys” play in that arena, you are overlooking a major market! The information that
follows may help.
Since purchasing in Virginia is decentralized, each agency can contract directly for the services they require. For purchases of less than $5,000, competitive bids are not required. Agency buyers may simply contact potential vendors and, if the price is considered fair and reasonable, they can make the purchase. For amounts between $5,000 and $50,000, four vendors need to be solicited and for amounts exceeding $50,000, competitive bidding is required. In all cases, small, women and minority owned businesses must be given a chance to make an offer.
So if you wish to do business with JMU, BRCC, or any state agency or institution, you should first do a little research. Usually the agency website will direct you to their procedures and tell you who to contact. Work with the agencies as you would with any other client; that is, let the customers (their buyers) know who you are and what you have to offer!
eVA Enters the Picture
Virginia’s decentralized system for purchasing goods and services has sometimes
prevented the Commonwealth from getting the best value for its money. Recognizing the need for a more efficient approach, eVA was introduced in 2001. eVA is a web-based procurement process that allows state agencies to share information and compare prices while opening the market to a broader range of vendors. eVA increases competition, fosters more effective negotiations, and delivers greater efficiency for VA taxpayers.
Nearly 90% of the Commonwealth's purchases are now made through this system, so if you are not registered in eVA you are closing off a very large market. Registering in eVA provides information about your business to more than 9,000 buyers in 170 different state agencies. You may choose from two levels of registration: Basic or Premium. Services include electronic order receipt, vendor catalog posting, on-line registration, and electronic bidding. Premium service also includes automatic email or fax notification of solicitations and amendments, and the ability to research historical procurement data.
Governor Warner’s Executive Order 29 mandates a state-wide effort to do business
with small, women-owned, and minority-owned businesses (SWAMs). What is a SWAM?
Small: has 250 or fewer employees or average annual gross receipts of $10 million
or less averaged over the previous three years.
Woman-Owned: is at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more women
Minority-Owned: is at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more minorities.
How to get started:
1. If applicable, certify Your Business as a Small, Woman- or Minority-Owned
Business. Certification is free from the Virginia Department of Minority
Business Enterprise (DMBE). See web address below.
2. Register Your Business in eVA, the state's electronic procurement system.
Register through eVA (see below) or inquire at JMU or BRCC Procurement
3. Do business with the Commonwealth!
Produce a catalog or brochures to inform agency buyers of your products or
services. Agency procurement offices and the eVA service can help you
determine the most promising markets for your business.
eVA Registration: http://evaregishelp.dgs.state.va.us/
JMU Procurement Office: 540-568-3141 or www.jmu.edu/procurement
BRCC Procurement Office: 540-453-2202 or
Virginia Division of Purchases and Supply: http://www.dgs.state.va.us/DPS.aspx
The SV SBDC is available for free consulting services as you plan and grow your
business. Contact our Harrisonburg (JMU) office 540-568-3227 or our Verona (BRCC)
office at 540-248-0600. Visit our web-site at www.jmu.edu/sbdcenter.