The Federal Business Opportunities website provides a database of opportunities that pulls together listings from many different government agencies. First key thing to know: this site is intended specifically for businesses that are interested in getting contracts with the United States Federal Government.
Recently the website was updated to include Recovery and Reinvestment Act authorized opportunities. This legislation provided more listings for businesses and is worth checking into. You can search and read through listings like you might in the classifieds section of the newspaper.
In many ways this website is similar to Grants.gov and the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance. Unlike either of those websites this one places a specific emphasis on businesses. If you are an individual then you are unlikely to benefit from this site. Since the government can't do everything, it contracts a substantial amount of work to the private sector. This work includes procurement of goods, construction and relief efforts.
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Update April 2017 This site currently lists more than 32,000 active federal opportunities for businesses. These include many that are specifically targeted for small businesses. And there are more than just the opportunities listed — many special events aim to educate small businesses about winning contracts and about successfully doing business with the government. You can check the Central Event Listing and calendar any time without being a registered user of the site. For example, there will be a Small Business Event in May in Kansas City at the monthly networking event that they hold. Similar events take place in other cities and are worth going to — most if not all are free!
Back to Listings: Note that, among other things, this is the only site where you can still learn anything about opportunities and awards associated with the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. Clearly highlighted in the upper right of the home page in red and blue respectively are “Search Recovery Opportunities” and “Search Recovery Awards.” If you click Opportunities you get a list of all open opportunities funded by this act. You can scroll through it or do a search. And when you click Awards you see a list of previously funded projects, what organizations received them, where they are located and when the award was made.
An attractive new offering lists opportunities for small businesses in a special spot called the Small Business Central Event Listing. These are events that are put on specifically to target small businesses and to help them learn how to get contracts with the government. Due to programs initiated by the Small Business Administration there are more and more of these, and many offer encouraging options for businesses owned by women and minorities. It takes some sorting through and being patient sometimes with “government-speak.” But there are definitely opportunities for small businesses, and you don't have to be a registered user to take a look at them.
To take a look at these “Events”, simply look to the right hand panel on the home page and find “Search Small Business Events” in a narrow green box. Click on that and it will take you right to a listing of events in chronological order starting with the most current and working backwards. You will find everything from very specialized events sponsored by the Naval Undersea Warfare Center to a networking event for small businesses in Kansas City to an expo and women-owned small business industry event at the NASA Kennedy Space Center. If you click the “Opportunities List” tab on the top left you can enter specific keywords to narrow your search results.
If you are a business you may be excited to find solicitations for your services. Your first task will be to search the listings in the database. At first glance you're likely to be disappointed by what you find. Many listings are very specific as to their purposes. In the event that you find a relevant listing, you'll likely think that the information provided is not substantial. The best way to utilize these listings is as a starting point to discuss the requirements of the work. To that end it will work best to investigate many listings. Even if you don't specialize in the requirements, it's worth adding yourself to the list of interested vendors or choosing to “Watch this Opportunity”.
If you are confused about how to do some of these searches this site also offers User Guides and FBO Demonstration Videos. In addition there is the always appreciated Frequently Asked Questions section. To find them, from the home page click “Demonstration Videos” in the lower part of the right column (this will take you to printed manuals and information as well as videos). This will take you to a page with “Getting Started” in the upper left. Below that you can choose FBO Demonstration Videos, Small Business Training Videos, User Guides and Frequently Asked Questions. In the center of the pate you'll see a section called For Vendors. If you are looking for government opportunities for your business start with “General Overview and Searching for Opportunities.
The actions referred to above, adding yourself to the list of interested vendors and watching this opportunity, are actions that can only be done as a registered user. User registration allows you to interact with the site beyond searching and reading. The registration you're likely interested in is to be a “Vendor”. This means you will be pursuing a business contract with the government. (The other registration is restricted to government employees.)
Though the process of understanding listings may be difficult, it can be well worth it. The language found in listings has a special set of jargon. If you find many relevant listings, it may be worth it to hire an expert for help. Someone in your Sales department may also be a good candidate for pursuing these contracts. Keep in mind though, interacting with the U.S. Government may mean complying with rules and regulations that are different from regular contracts. Be suspicious of online help or services that cost money and promise you the contract. Unless you're directly receiving help from FBO.gov, don't bother with other online resources.
Update December 2016 Please note that currently highlighted on this site is a warning about potential scam activity. Some people are receiving emails claiming to be from fob. They offer to help you sign up for fbo's System for Award Management (SAM) – for a fee of course. Be aware that NO such email come from fob. More importantly, you do not need to pay anything to sign up for SAM. It is free to register whether you are a Buyer or a Vendor. AND: it is not necessary to sign up to see all the (many!) federal business opportunities currently available.
The best part about this website is a focus on current events. Among the list of opportunities you can find reconstruction efforts in Haiti, efforts to reduce the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and reconstruction efforts in Iraq. These opportunities emphasize the commitment of the government to addressing current issues. In some cases you may wish to speak directly with the agency responsible for the reconstruction and repair efforts. In the case of Haiti this department is the U.S. Agency for International Development. The United States Coast Guard Research and Development Center is working to address the oil spill. Lastly, Iraq reconstruction efforts are carried out by the Department of Defense.
If you found this article useful, you may also want to discuss and learn about other websites on the internet.