Your First Steps to Successful State Contracting

For the seventh consecutive year, California remains the 5th largest economy in the world. With a GDP of nearly $3.9 trillion, and a state budget that tends to be around $235 billion, there are plenty of economic opportunities in the Golden State. As a small business owner, you probably want to play a part.

Caleprocure.ca.gov is California State’s one-stop shop for all things procurement. It’s where businesses can –

  • register to become a vendor with the state government
  • apply for certificationsfrom the state of CA
  • find open solicitations that your business can compete for
  • do market research by combing through past purchase data
  • find helpful guidance on the process of selling their goods and services to the state government.

All of these can be found via the “Quick Links” tab on the homepage. This website along with the processes that it offers are administered by the CA Department of General Services (DGS). This is entirely separate from the Federal government’s SAM.gov and other states’ and local agencies’ procurement portals.

The first step to doing business with the state is to create a New Bidder Registration on Caleprocure. You enter your basic business information and create a username and password. You’re also given the chance to set up a bid notification profile which will guide you to input some pieces of information and then send you emails with any open bid opportunities the system finds that matches what you’ve input. This includes selecting industry codes, entering keywords that describe what you do, and selecting which counties you want to include in the place of performance for your bid notifications.

If you have any experience with Federal or local contracting you may be aware of NAICS codes (North American Industry Classification System). These are standardized codes that indicate what kind of product or service you offer. The State of California does not use these – instead they use UNSPSC codes (United Nations Standard Products and Services Code). It’s an entirely different system used by many countries in the UN but it serves the same purpose. These are not codes unique to your company but rather descriptions of entire subsectors of industries. You will need to select your UNSPSC codes in order to create a bid notification profile – they will also come in handy if you apply for a Small Business certification, when you do market research, and when you market your business to CA State agencies. You can find a directory of these codes here: UNSPSC lookup

Once you’ve set up your basic registration and have access to your company dashboard, you can begin on any certifications you may be eligible for. The State has only two basic types of certifications (although one of them has two flavors to it):

  • SB – Small Business
    • Eligibility requirements:
      • Independently owned and operated
      • Not dominant in field of operation
      • Principal office located in California
      • Owners (or officers for a corporation) domiciled in California
      • 100 or fewer employees
      • Gross Annual Receipts (GARs) less
        than $16 million (with affiliates)
      • *If a manufacturer, 100 or fewer employees and no GARs cap
  • SB-PW – Small Business for the Purposes of Public Works
    • Eligibility requirements are the same as SB requirements except:
      • 200 or fewer employees
      • Gross Annual Receipts (GARs) less than $38 million (with affiliates)
  • DVBE – Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise
    • Eligibility requirements:
      • At least 10% service disabled
      • Be at least 51% owned by disabled veterans (100% for LLCs)
      • Veteran owner(s) must reside in California
      • Managed and operated by disabled veterans
      • Headquarters in US

Both certifications are valuable; they offer incentives, bid price preferences, access to priority consideration among contracts, eligibility for a simplified awards process (SB/DVBE option), among other benefits. There are statewide goals to award 25% of all contracts to certified SBs and 3% to certified DVBEs. In other words – if you are eligible for either category and you want to do business with the State then you should certainly apply. Your Norcal APEX Accelerator advisor can walk you through the process from start to finish.

Review the documentation requirements for SB and DVBE applications before beginning so that you can be prepared to submit the whole package together. You will need items such as your business tax returns, payroll reports, articles of incorporation/organization, and most recent statements of information. The SB application is usually approved immediately but the DVBE review process can take a couple of months during busy periods.

Don’t be shy! Did you know that there are plenty of people employed by the State whose entire job is to connect with and support small businesses like yours? The CA DGS Office of Small Business and Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise Services (OSDS) has Business Outreach Liaisons who are experts in helping and training small businesses navigate the complexities of California contracting. In addition there are SB/DVBE Advocates on staff for each CA agency who are there to connect with you and increase the proportion of their contracts that go to SBs and DVBEs. You can find a directory of them here. These are great folks to reach out with once you are registered and certified. We highly recommend that you have your capabilities statement ready to present to them as well (you can find resources and our free webinar on how to put one of these together here).

These are some of the first and most important steps – there’s plenty more to learn! If you’d like to learn more about how to do business with the State of California after you are registered and certified, then join us for a free in-person workshop in partnership with the CA DGS in Redding CA on June 21st

If you are looking for help with government contracting or want no-cost help to find contracting opportunities, please contact your Norcal APEX Accelerator counselor for assistance or apply for services today!

If you have more questions, please contact us at info@norcalptac.org or 707.267.7561

Authored by: James Forrest, Norcal APEX Accelerator Procurement Specialist