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Doan Speaks to Veterans at Small Business Conference

As prepared for delivery

Remarks By
 Lurita Alexis Doan
Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration
2nd Annual National Veterans Small Business Conference
Las Vegas, Nevada
June 27, 2006

 

Thank you Scott (Denniston) for that warm introduction.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Boy! Am I glad to be here!

With Memorial Day behind us and the 4th of July just a few days off, it’s wonderful to be here at the 2nd Annual National Veterans Small Business Conference. I’m honored to be in the presence of so many men and women who have served our nation so selflessly, and pleased to report on the progress GSA has made in increasing federal contracting opportunities for small businesses owned by service-disabled vets.

President Bush has said that, as veterans, you’ve placed the nation's security before your own lives, and that sacrifice creates a debt that our country can never fully repay.

As we gather today, our brave forces are overseas fighting to bring freedom to places that have known only tyranny.  Our work here honors them, as well as the 2,493 U.S. troops who have died in Iraq fighting terrorism, and the more than 8,500 --wounded so severely that they could not return to active duty.  That sacrifice truly is a debt that neither I nor our country can every fully repay.

But we can and should try. Indeed, there is important work being done on behalf of veterans every day by the agencies represented here, including the Veterans Administration, the Small Business Administration, and many others. While I’m naming names, let me take a moment to acknowledge our partners at this year’s conference. They include: the VA, the Army, the Navy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Departments of State, Commerce, the Health and Human Services, the Small Business Administration, and the Defense Logistics Agency. Many thanks to all our fellow agencies for participating in this year’s conference.

My advice to you small business owners is simple: take full advantage of the expertise assembled here this week. Come prepared with questions, and don’t go home without answers that will boost your odds of winning federal contracting opportunities.

You may be wondering what qualifies me to be dispensing such advice.

While it’s true that I’m new at GSA – my first day was June 1st – I’m not new to GSA. As a small businesswoman, I worked closely with GSA over the past 15 years and understand the organization from the ground up, just as a customer would. We are in the midst of changes that will return GSA to its original mission and that reflect my vision for the agency.

What is that vision? I’m a businesswoman and an entrepreneur. My focus has always been on integrity, hard work, and customer service. Anyone who has worked with me will tell you I have high energy and high expectations. 

There is also a personal connection.

Before you stands:

  • The granddaughter of a buffalo soldier,
  • The daughter of a World War II and Korean War vet,
  • The sister of a retired Army officer, and
  • The wife of a West Point grad and former Army officer.

My grandfather fought in France as a first lieutenant in the 92nd Infantry Division under General John Pershing. He was the victim of a mustard gas attack during the Meuse-Argonne offensive and suffered wounds that plagued him the rest of his life.

So I feel linked to you by the military connection. We also share a small business link. I am the fourth generation of black entrepreneurs who started businesses, going back to my great grandmother, who sold pralines in New Orleans after President Lincoln freed the slaves. She believed that the key to her success was a business precept that remains critical to this day – first to market.

My great-grandmother made her pralines before the sun rose and got to the docks just as the businessmen were having their first cups of café au lait.  By 10:00 a.m., she was sold out. That’s when she went home to take care of her family.

My grandmother strongly believed that education was the gateway to new horizons. She began a business school that trained black women to be legal secretaries during Teddy Roosevelt’s administration, a time when women didn’t even have the right to vote.

My dad also ran several small businesses. I learned from him what you already know – that running a business is backbreaking work, and there’s no guarantee of success. I also learned that doing work that you love is addictive.

Over the years, I’ve seen firsthand that the small businesses across our nation embody the energy and creativity that have made America great. Small business leaders know the crucial importance of customer focus, of decisive and timely decision-making, and of the need to create a culture of change within an organization to best meet the needs of customers.

And so when we help you, we help ourselves. When we tap into your energy, creativity, and decisiveness, we help GSA fulfill its mission of helping other federal agencies better serve the public by offering superior products and services at best value.

Moreover, it’s the right thing to do.

I know that when GSA expands economic opportunities for service-disabled veterans, we are drawing on men and women who know teamwork, discipline, cooperation, and mission accomplishment. All of those traits are essential for succeeding in business.

And, as the Association for Service-Disabled Veterans has pointed out, we’re also stimulating economic growth and the development of enterprises that can provide useful goods and services at competitive prices, create employment, and bring service-disabled veteran-owned enterprises into the mainstream of the economy.

The bonus is that we’re also extending the gratitude of all Americans when we expand economic opportunities to servicemen and women who have put themselves in harm’s way defending our nation, our ideals, and our way of life.

Now, another thing I learned from my dad was facta non verba -- Latin for, show me deeds, not words. So I’m going to talk now for a few minutes about our deeds.

When President Bush signed Executive Order 13360, GSA, like our fellow federal agencies, was given specific marching orders.  Section IV of the Executive Order says the GSA Administrator shall:

1. Establish a government-wide acquisition contract reserved for participation by service-disabled veteran businesses, and …

2. Assist service-disabled veteran businesses to be included in GSA Federal Supply Schedules.

While we’re all honored to have a chance to help expand business opportunities for America’s veterans, two members of our GSA family – Heartland Regional Administrator Brad Scott and Project Director Tom Brown -- really rolled up their sleeves, figured out what needed to be done, and made it happen. I’d also like to introduce you to GSA Associate Administrator Felipe Mendoza, GSA’s advocate for small business. Felipe, would you, Brad, and Tom please stand and be recognized.

Brad and Tom oversee GSA’s Veterans in Procurement (VIP) Initiative, which features a governmentwide information technology acquisition contract devoted entirely to VIP businesses. This contract, the Vets Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC), has a potential value of $5 billion and will be awarded some time after October 1, 2006, the start of the federal government’s 2007 fiscal year.

We’re also committed to increasing the number of VIP businesses qualified by GSA to sell to government agencies. Once a VIP business is qualified, we add it to a GSA contractor list, the Multiple Award Schedules, which lists businesses certified to market to all government agencies, a $260 billion market.  Our work is producing results:

  • In three years, GSA increased the number of VIP businesses seven-fold.
  • VIP businesses more than doubled their government-wide business, thanks to being listed on GSA’s Schedules. Sales jumped to $660 million in 2005, up from $120 million in 2004.
  • VIP businesses almost doubled their billings to GSA to $103 million in 2005, up from $65 million in 2004.
  • GSA has distributed 7,000 copies of a brochure with interactive CDs to federal agencies and VIP businesses. The brochure – Is Your Agency Doing Its Part for Veterans? —describes the VIP initiative and offers tips on how to buy from VIP businesses.
  • GSA’s veterans outreach program has conferences scheduled in four cities this year and previously has held conferences in nine cities. We work in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Small Business Administration.

I think all that qualifies as, facta non verba!

Which isn’t to say we’re satisfied – we’re not – or that there isn’t plenty more work ahead – there most certainly is. I’ve challenged our management team to continue planning and aggressively implementing additional steps as part of this initiative. And I have personally pledged to significantly reduce the time and simplify the process of getting on Schedule. In taking these steps, we’re also helping other agencies meet President Bush’s directive to award at least 3 percent of their contract dollars to small businesses owned by service disabled veterans.

By the way, GSA’s website, Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business, provides easy access to information on processes and procedures related to doing business with the federal government. The website also provides links to other agencies.

But please don’t think about web sites right now. While you’re here in Las Vegas, play the odds – hit the workshops, meet face-to-face with the experts, and network until you’ve got at least ten business cards that represent meaningful contacts.

At GSA, we will continue doing our part to ensure that federal contracting opportunities are available to our nation’s veterans.

Do your part by making sure you’re ready to step up when those opportunities come knocking.

We’re at Caesar’s Palace, so I have to end by quoting one of Rome’s greatest poets, Ovid, who said: Let your hook always be cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.

Thank you very much.

 


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