The General Services Administration appropriates millions of dollars for enhancing security in vario

The U.S. federal government has long been associated with two things: taxes and spending. While the government has been looked upon by some as an unwieldy careless spender in the past—most notably with such over-hyped examples as $200 toilet seats and other infamous cases—today’s spending environment is rapidly changing.

One factor contributing to today’s tighter government spending habits can be attributed to improvements in working with the General Services Administration (GSA), an agency that procures equipment and supplies for other federal entities.

With the GSA’s strict guidelines, manufacturing audits and “best price” policies, taking advantage of government spending isn’t an option. Improvements in the GSA have made it easier for manufacturers, and subsequently, dealers, to sell and install equipment and systems to government agencies across the United States at modest profits.

Before jumping into the bidding war, however, manufacturers and dealers should consider several factors, including product purchasing requirements, bidding considerations, contract stipulations and payment for services.Manufacturers Benefit From Federal Spending

Widely regarded as the largest purchasing body in the world, the U.S. federal government is famous for its cumbersome purchasing procedures and the seemingly endless red tape that comes with the territory. By establishing the GSA and continually fine-tuning it—like consolidating the once-separate security-related departments under one umbrella in the GSA’s Dallas office—the process has gotten easier for manufacturers wishing to solicit business.

Opportunities Exist at State Level

While the GSA works primarily with federal agencies, several government purchase opportunities exist at the state level. In addition to federal monitoring, SIA monitors bill and amendment introduction in all 50 state legislatures on such key issues as biometrics, CCTV and access control. The most significant differences between federal and state funding legislation is that states usually have a shorter session, most running from January until the early spring.

Manufacturers Pass Benefit on to Dealers

Although working with the GSA is clearly a significant opportunity for security equipment manufacturers, the question has always remained about how dealers can benefit. By buying direct from manufacturers, the government had been inherently shutting out dealers, discouraging them from offering system design and installation solutions due to the fact that profit margins on the equipment involved was essentially zero.

Other Manufacturers Promote Dealer Involvement

PELCO of Clovis, Calif., is another manufacturer known for allowing its dealers to sell to government agencies off of its GSA schedule. Diane King, president of Virginia Beach, Va.-based Secure Systems Inc., has been selling equipment and services to the government under PELCO’s GSA schedule for more than 10 years.

Large Companies Have Their Own GSA Schedule

While small-sized and midsized companies are free to pursue their own GSA schedules, most will find the process prohibitive. Larger dealers, however, have gotten their own GSA contracts, or are in the process of doing so, offering such services as monitoring and leasing.Just as with manufacturers seeking to get a GSA schedule, the process for national and international dealers and distributors is pretty intensive. Companies have to disclose a lot of financials and are subject to the same auditing process that manufacturers face, not to mention the 1-percent rebate.

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