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5 Questions with Amanda Duquette, NH PTAP

Friday, June 19th, 2015

We’ve covered some of the higher-level facets of federal government contracting in previous “5 Questions” interview pieces, and this time, we decided to dig a little deeper into the space – looking at state and local opportunities, and what it’s like for a company to actually work with a procurement service.

To guide us in this area, we interviewed Amanda Duquette, procurement specialist with the New Hampshire Procurement Technical Assistance Program (NH-PTAP). Her day-to-day work includes one-on-one counseling with New Hampshire businesses selling their products or services, either directly to the local, state, and federal government or indirectly through subcontracting, as well as performing marketing research and creating strategic plans for companies to get the training and technical assistance they need to come up to speed for government contracting opportunities.

1. You’ve been with PTAP since 2007 and have worked with many, many businesses. How vital would you say PTAP’s services are to the overall success of those companies?

Amanda Duquette

Amanda Duquette

Most of the clients that we help come to us because they aren’t sure how to best pursue government contracts.  There are many registrations and processes that need to be completed before a company can be awarded a government contract.  We help companies navigate through the red tape and we basically walk them through the entire process.  There are many rules and regulations that go along with contracting with the government – and they are constantly changing. I think PTAP’s services are vital to companies who want to successfully work for the government.

2. What kinds of assistance are requested most often by New Hampshire businesses?

Many of our clients are new to the government contracting arena.  They are looking for assistance with government registrations and how to find government contracts that are a good fit for their company.  They want us to teach them how to set their business up to work for the government and then how to find and pursue government work.

3. Much of the PTAP talk is about federal contracts, but you help with state and local contracts, too. Can you give us a sense of the variety of products and services needed at state and local levels?

There is a vast variety of products and services that are needed at the state and local level.  There is usually a need for janitorial services, landscaping/snow plowing, construction/renovation work and automotive equipment. We also see needs for medical and professional services, laboratory equipment and hardware. Our Bidmatch service helps our clients get easy access to bidding opportunities that are found on the state and individual city and town websites, or published in the newspapers.

4. What kind of market research will you perform for clients interested in exploring contracting opportunities?

PTAP counselors do a lot of market research for our clients.  We often have clients who want to know if the government is buying their products or services. We take our clients on virtual tours to show them what agencies are buying their products or services. We can show them who their competitors are and what they are selling to the government and we can also show them competitor’s prices and sales amounts. We also teach our clients how to search for government contracts. If our client isn’t ready for direct government contracts, we show them how to find subcontracting opportunities.

5. Sometimes your clients aren’t quite qualified or otherwise capable of contracting with the government. What does PTAP do to help train or otherwise help these companies get to the point of being a suitable contractor?

You are right, not every company that comes to us is ready for government contracting. When we first speak with a new client, we assess his/her company – taking into consideration, its products/services, time in business, past performance and commercial market. We often recommend that companies that are not ready for direct government work reach out to prime contractors, to become a subcontractor for a piece of the project or work.  This helps them get their feet wet with government work and helps them understand what it takes to complete a government contract.  Also, when a company is a new start-up or not ready for our services, we usually refer them to our partners at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and/or SCORE.

5 Questions with Martha Keene, New Hampshire Procurement Technical Assistance Program

Friday, May 15th, 2015

Earlier this week, the New Hampshire Procurement and Technical Assistance Program won the Small Business Champion Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration. In giving the award, the SBA referred to NH-PTAP as a “group of dedicated and hardworking individuals,” and added, “NH-PTAP works tirelessly for their clients in their pursuit of government contract opportunities.”

By a lucky coincidence (really!), our interviewee this week is Martha Keene, who’s been a procurement specialist with NH-PTAP since 2002. She’s APTAC-certified as a Level II contracting assistance specialist, consulting with businesses around the state to educate them one-on-one about marketing to the government and about procurement, including both direct opportunities with the government and indirect opportunities as a subcontractor or supplier to prime contractors.

She took some time out of her schedule to talk this week about how to succeed in government bidding and contracting, as well as why New Hampshire succeeds when it comes to setting Granite State businesses up for valuable contracting opportunities.
1. You’re the longest-tenured member of the NH-PTAP team. What do you love most about the work you do?

It’s very rewarding at the end of the day knowing that I helped a company get ready to work for the government at some level, and then watching it move forward and win their its contract.


Martha Keene ~ NH-PTAP

2. Are the NH-PTAP services designed only for enterprise-level businesses, or do you assist small businesses and entrepreneurs, too?

Size is not a factor – we will work with businesses as small as one person, and most of our clients are small businesses. Readiness is a much bigger issue than size.
We like our clients to be in businesses for at least two years, successfully.

But, it all depends on the company’s products or services. We never turn people away. We talk to them and show them what is involved with contracting and help them make the determination to move forward or not. If a company is not ready for our services, we direct them to one of our resource partners to help them become more ready for government contracting, and then they eventually come back to us.

3. After working with more than 2,000 businesses, have you seen a common set of attributes that lead to success in the government contracting space?

Knowing the marketplace for your products or services.
Focusing on your capabilities – your special niche.
Knowing your competition.
Having a good accounting system, solid financials and business processes helps a lot.
Being persistent and networking with anyone who can help you grow your business.

4.What are one or two of the big mistakes businesses make when trying to land a government contract, and how do you help solve them?

One mistake is that people don’t follow directions and this makes them unresponsive. People need to take more time to read and review their bids – attention to details is always critical. The simple mistake of not signing a document can make you ‘unresponsive.’ So always take your time to read and review everything.

One of NH-PTAP’s services is to review solicitations with our clients and to work with them on bids and proposals to make sure that they are properly responsive.

5. If a business located out of state was considering a move here, what would you say sets New Hampshire apart?

Almost every state has a procurement technical assistance center/program, so these services are not unique to just New Hampshire. Where we excel is that we offer very good one-on-one counseling services to our clients to help them decide if government contracting is right for them or not.

New Hampshire business culture is generally more aggressive – we have a willingness to look for regional or national business opportunities much more than is typical of some of our neighboring states.

Contact Martha at martha.keene@dred.nh.gov.

Small Business Champions: NH-PTAP Team Demystifies Government Contracting

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

From left: Seth Goodall, Small Business Administration New England regional administrator; Amanda Duquette, Dave Pease, Martha Keene, NH-PTAP; Jeffrey Rose, Department of Resources and Economic Development commissioner; Greta Johansson, SBA-NH district director

The U.S. Small Business Administration and the New Hampshire Bankers Association honored David Pease, Martha Keene and Amanda Duquette of the New Hampshire Procurement Technical Assistance Program with the 2015 New Hampshire Small Business Champion Award at their annual awards event on Tuesday.

NH PTAP helps hundreds of businesses each year navigate through the process of bidding on, and winning, contracts with local, state and federal government agencies. In New Hampshire, Pease, Duquette and Keene have earned a reputation for working tirelessly for their clients in areas such as researching federal regulations and databases and helping businesses develop strategies for marketing to government agencies and prime contractors.

Over the past five years, NH PTAP has assisted 1,391 businesses across the state obtain federal, state and local contracts totaling over $1.9 billion in prime contract awards and an additional $275 million in subcontracting awards.

That adds up to an impressive contribution to the New Hampshire economy.

Martha Keene, Dave Pease, Amanda Duquette

“Without PTAP’s assistance, we would not be anywhere near where we are today, if we survived at all,” wrote business owner Joe Lopez of Arrow Security and Training in his letter of support. “I refer every company I work with to them, which is the best compliment I can give.”

The work of NH PTAP has earned the respect of business owners throughout the state and is an invaluable partner to the SBA district office.

Congratulations Dave, Martha and Amanda! We are very proud of your work.

Lorna Colquhoun
Communications Director
NH Division of Economic Development

PS: Here is information on the next seminar in which NH PTAP will be participating. You should go.

Women and Government Contracting 2015 Handout 42015
















Uncle Sam Wants Your Products and Services – Yes, *Your* Products and Services

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

The US government is the world’s largest buyer of goods and services and last year, New Hampshire manufacturers and service providers met its needs to the tune of $1.7 billion.

Uncle Sam is a valuable client for any company, but it takes some patience and finesse to land a federal contract.

That’s why the upcoming DOD Northeast Regional Council Matchmaker event May 6-8 in Manchester, Vt., is an opportunity of which New Hampshire businesses should plan to take advantage.

“The government needs just about everything an ordinary business needs, from office furniture to food and clothing to specialized defense systems,” said Dave Pease, program manager for the New Hampshire Procurement Technical Assistance Program, part of the state’s Division of Economic Development. “The catch is that landing a federal contract, while beneficial to any business, is not easy. The process has to be fair and it has to be transparent.”

Next month’s matchmaker is the second of three being held in the northeast this year; Portland, Maine will be the site of the third one on Aug. 7. Matchmaker events draw scores of prime contractors; for example, BAE Systems, Albany Engineered Composites and Crane and Co., are expected to be among the primes on hand in May, ready to meet with representatives from more than 400 small businesses.

“New Hampshire small businesses are the government contracting champs of northern New England,” Pease said. “The key is having the best of something the government needs, not the size of the business.”

What do New Hampshire companies have that the government wants?

Gentex, in Manchester, produces microphones used in helmet systems for the military. C3I, Inc., of Hampton, specializes in aircraft lighting for US Navy ships. Winchester Precision Tech, of Winchester, works with the Los Alamos National Laboratory to learn more about dark matter. Mission Information Resources in Lancaster designs field notebooks for US Special Forces.

Pease notes that government contracting in New Hampshire is more than high tech and military. The process extends into places like the White Mountain National Forest, where everything from bundled wood for campgrounds to road repairs is needed.

In preparation for the federal matchmaker events, workshops will be held around the state to help businesses prepare for them.

Making the Most of the Matchmaker will be held from 9 – 11:30 am, April 16 at Manchester Community College and from 9:30 am to noon, April 20 at River Valley Community College in Keene.

One of the most important pieces of marketing for selling to the government is a capabilities statement. Capabilities Statement Coaching will be held from 9 to 11:30 am on April 29 at Manchester Community College.

For more information on the matchmaker, and government contracting, visit our website or  call NH PTAP at 271-7581; to register, visit http://www.us-ipe.org

Lorna Colquhoun
Communications Director
NH Division of Economic Development

Five Questions with Dave Pease, NH PTAP Program Manager

Friday, February 20th, 2015

(Welcome to our newest feature, Five Questions. Every week, nheconomy.com will introduce you to some of the most interesting and business-savvy people in New Hampshire, all within five questions. Ed.)


Selling to the government, whether at the federal, state, or local levels, can be a daunting challenge for businesses to pursue. It can also be a tremendous opportunity, with nearly half a trillion dollars waiting to be spent on products and services – some of which might surprise you.Print

To learn more about selling to government agencies, we talked to David Pease, program manager for the Procurement Technical Assistance Program. PTAP is a cooperative program of the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Logistics Agency and the New Hampshire Division of Economic Development. NH-PTAP’s sole purpose is to help New Hampshire businesses win contracts and subcontracts with a wide variety of government agencies.


What do the opportunities for contracting with the federal government look like in 2015?

Sequestration and the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have reduced government spending, so government contracting opportunities have become more competitive over the past few years. That said, it’s still an enormous market.

Federal contracting budgets peaked at $539 billion in 2011 and have declined steadily to $445 billion in 2014, a reduction of about 7 percent per year. We expect this to level off, unless Congress allows sequestration to continue, in which case the decline will continue and possibly accelerate.

Defense contracts are experiencing a shift from expenditures to support ‘boots on the ground’ to more strategic systems – ships, subs and aircraft systems. Drone-related expenditures remain high and are likely to continue to do so.

What business industries in New Hampshire have the best chances of landing a federal contract?

The federal government is always seeking the most effective goods and services at the lowest price consistent with high quality. New Hampshire companies that have excellent products, and are ‘lean and mean’ enough to provide them at highly competitive prices will continue to see good opportunities in the federal markets.

Many New Hampshire high-tech manufacturers have been, and will continue to be, successful bidders for federal contracts and subcontracts. In the wake of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA, or commonly, ‘the Stimulus’), many New Hampshire construction contractors geared up for federal contracts, and have had increasing success carving out market share that they are likely to hold on to going forward.

We also have some outstanding specialty companies that will continue to see opportunities for their products and services.

What industries or types of companies would people be surprised to learn have received federal contracts with the help of PTAP?

The list is almost endless – juvenile furniture (cribs for Army daycare centers), off-road race driver training (for special operations troops) and investigation services (for the Department of Justice), to name just a few.

According to the SBA, “most of New Hampshire’s small businesses are very small, as 76.8 percent of all businesses have no employees, and most employers have fewer than 20 employees.” Are there opportunities for companies as small as these to bid for and win federal contracts?

Depending, of course, on the nature of the business, absolutely there are opportunities for the smallest of small businesses. Quite a number of our small machine shops, for example, make parts for military systems.

There are numerous small (but significant) contracts for landscaping, all of the construction trades, training services, security services, technical experts, food products, specialty garments – the list goes on and on.

What are the first steps business owners would have to take, if they’ve never done it before, to be able to bid for a federal contract?

We recommend that they become an NH-PTAP client. We provide free consulting and training to help New Hampshire businesses succeed with government contracting.

We usually start with an evaluation to understand the nature of the government markets for the company’s products or services. If the market appears to be attractive, then the company needs to determine what it needs to do to be ready to do business with Uncle Sam.

The legendary “red tape” is real, but NH-PTAP provides expert help getting through it, not just to winning a contract, but also through all of the requirements to comply with the government’s rules, along the way to successful completion and payment.
PTAP’s next training session is on Feb. 26, covering Federal Website Navigation III in Claremont. It’s a workshop where you’ll learn about the advanced tools available in the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS-NG). FPDS is the repository of historical federal procurement data and can be used to better understand Federal customers’ buying patterns and structure. It also offers an opportunity to research and monitor the Federal sales of competitors and potential team members. Used effectively, FPDS can be a powerful market research tool. For more details, prerequisites, and to register for free, click here. For a list of all upcoming PTAP training events, click here.

Spotlight on Government Contracting: NH’s $2B Industry

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

New Hampshire Public Radio took an extensive look at government contracting on Monday, after spending a morning recently at a training seminar in Littleton with David Pease, program manager for the New Hampshire Procurement Technical Assistance Program.

NHPTAPNH PTAP (for short) is one of the free services we offer here at the Division of Economic Development and its mission is to assist small businesses in navigating the waters (and currents) of government contracting. It’s not exactly easy, but patience and persistance can pay off.

Chris Jensen, North Country correspondent for NHPR, produced this segment and if you are a small business, it’s well worth the  four-minute listen.* And then visit our NH PTAP website.

Lorna Colquhoun
Communications Director
NH Division of Economic Development

* Some examples of the kinds of services and products for which the government is contracting with New Hampshire businesses include: Bags and sacks; bakery products; ball and roller bearings; battery and power systems; biological studies; body armor; building rental; buoys; packaging materials; paint; paper shredders; paving; plaques; plumbing, heating, HVAC; precast concrete; property management … and that’s only part of the list!

Government Contracting: Uncle Sam Needs Your Business

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

NHPTAPThe government is an untapped market in need of what New Hampshire businesses produce and there is assistance available for those companies who would like to do business with Uncle Sam.

The New Hampshire Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) offers free training and events to help businesses of all sizes tap into this viable market. (Click on the free training link for upcoming events).

“The US government spent over $100 billion on contracts with small businesses last year,” said David Pease, program manager of NH-PTAP.

The introductory and training seminars PTAP conducts are held in every region of the state, many aimed at the specific types of businesses in those regions that can fill the various needs of the government.

For example, in the Seacoast area, there are contracts for painting, environmental services and more. Around Keene and Claremont, there are companies that could fill the government’s needs for parks maintenance with landscaping, fuel delivery and other project opportunities. In the Manchester area, there is a constant need for companies to handle security contracts, hospitality services and more. The Lakes Region needs caterers and the North Country needs food products for the federal prison in Berlin. In all these areas, the government could do with contracts for commercial real estate.

With all these opportunities available what is holding New Hampshire businesses back from reaching for the government contacts available? For many, it is the intimidating rules and regulations that come with these contracts.

“The reason PTAP exists is because the government is a very large market and it is so different from regular business,  that it takes knowledge to be competitive,” Pease said.

This is where NH-PTAP becomes a valuable resource.

NH-PTAP assisted a company in Dover that makes strap-based products in securing a government contract to make seatbelts for shopping carts. In Epping, a fire arms training school won a federal contract to teach various classes. Up north in Dalton, Team O’Neil won a contract to instruct US Special Forces in high level driving skills.

What need can your product fill for the government? Contact NH-PTAP at 603-271-7581 or online. If you have any questions, contact Amanda Duquette or call 603-271-7581.


Alicia Gagne


NH Division of Economic Development



Crib Notes

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

The Civil War-era building in the heart of downtown Keene belies the lean, green, sophisticated 21st century manufacturing operation inside the brick walls, with its state-of-the-art computer numerical controlled machinery operated by 43 skilled workers.

Whitney Brothers makes superior quality wood furniture, storage, display and educational play products for children. Their products can be found in schools, childcare centers, libraries and churches around the world.

Today, the plant hums at near capacity as it works to fulfill the largest single contract in its history and it’s an unlikely one: An order from the US Army.

It’s for a total of 3,614 cribs needed to upgrade its child development centers, located on military bases around the world. The order is a 3-year-contract, with two, one-year renewable options. The first year totals $866,000.

Production is humming at Whitney Brothers in Keene.

“Our company believes that childcare and early learning in a child’s first five years are critical to develop into productive citizens and we applaud the US Army for its support of those same values,” said David Stabler, president of Whitney Brothers. “We appreciate that the army recognized our American-made products represent better quality, safety and overall value vs. low-cost imports.”

Winning the contract took patience and perseverance and required meticulous preparation. It began in 2003, when Stabler met with Martha Keene of NH-PTAP, a program of the Division of Economic Development that helps New Hampshire companies sell their products and services to federal, state and local governments. He evaluated the government market, performed the necessary registrations and developed a strategy to generate government sales through the company’s existing network of distributors versus selling directly to the federal government.

The pivotal event in the process would not happen for another eight years. In 2011, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission enacted standards that necessitated the replacement of older cribs in public and private childcare centers with newer, safety-compliant units by the end of 2012. This included childcare facilities sponsored by the government, such as the US Army worldwide Childcare Development Centers. Whitney Brothers had prepared diligently for this opportunity, resulting in the US Army contract award in May 2012.

“We acknowledge the vital role that the NHPTAP and (the Department of Resources and Economic Development) played in helping us win this important contract,” said Brian Vaillancourt, director of sales and marketing. “These publicly funded organizations and the programs, training and assistance they provide helped us gain full visibility in front of the federal government customer and acquire this order. We advocate the current federal administration continue to support these invaluable resources.”

To fulfill the contract, Whitney Brothers hired 13 new employees – a 32 percent increase to its existing workforce.


Dave Pease, CCAS

Program Manager

NH Procurement Technical Assistance Program




General Services Administrator, Martha Johnson, meets with NH Businesses

Monday, January 30th, 2012

On Wednesday and Thursday, (1/25 & 1/26), New Hampshire Businesses had the opportunity to meet and speak with Martha Johnson, Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA).

Johnson heads this 12,000-employee federal agency, charged with providing administrative support to the entire federal government. Some examples of their responsibilities:

  • Manage 370 million square feet of workspace, providing working environments for 1.1 million federal workers
  • Provide credit card services for purchase, travel and fleet services
    • ~3,000,000 cards
    • ~ 100,000,000 transactions per year
    • $30 billion in expenditures
  • Operate a fleet of 214,000 vehicles
  • Federal Acquisition Service – purchasing goods & services for federal agencies
    • > $38 billion in FY ‘11

 On Wednesday, Johnson met with about a half-dozen veteran-owned businesses in Keene. The Thursday event, held at St. Anselm’s NH Institute of Politics in Manchester, drew ~30 businesses. Over an hour of the 90-minute session was devoted to Q&A, with most companies seeking insight into how to capture more business with the government.

In addition to Administrator Johnson, GSA was represented by Regional Administrator Robert Zarnetske and Regional Small Business Utilization Director Jerry Smith. Also attending were Amy Bassett from the US Small Business Administration, Scott Merrick representing Senator Shaheen’s office and Dave Pease of the NH Procurement Technical Assistance Program.

Small Business Roundtable: “Everything You Want to Know About Government Contracting But Were Afraid to Ask!”

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Have you ever wondered about how a competitor received a contract with a federal or state agency?

Does the thought of selling your product or service to state, local or government agencies cause you to sweat and worry about an endless stream of expensive and complicated paperwork?  

If you wanted to begin, where would you even start and who could you ask for honest advice?

On December 15th, the New Hampshire office of the U.S. Small Business Administration  (SBA) and the NH Procurement Technical Assistance Program (NH-PTAP) will present their first of several “Everything You Want to Know About Government Contracting But Were Afraid to Ask!” roundtable sessions for small business owners or key employees in small businesses who are thinking about  joining the hundreds of New Hampshire small businesses who sold over $275 million dollars in goods and services to federal agencies. 

According to Dave Pease, Program Manager of the NH-PTAP, “The companies that have achieved success in selling to federal or state agencies or large federal contractors have several things in common.  They all have asked questions, they all have experienced frustration at some point and they all have persevered with a winning bid or proposal.” 

At the upcoming roundtable business owners will hear contracting specialists discuss real and perceived barriers that businesses encounter as well as strategies and supportive resources you can use to overcome barriers and gain access to these opportunities. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011
1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
The New Hampshire Innovation Commercialization Center Conference Room
75 Rochester Avenue
Portsmouth, NH 03801

This session is offered free of charge, but space is limited. Please contact  Rachael Roderick at 603 225-1603 or  rachael.roderick@sba.gov  to register.