Published: April 22, 2014
Executive Director, Colorado Procurement Technical Assistance Center
Gary Henry knows something about government contracting. He served as the contracting squadron commander at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, and also was policy chief for Air Force base command contracting. After retirement he worked for a large defense firm in the Colorado Springs area, focusing on contracts and subcontracts.
After retiring from the Air Force, Henry felt called to nonprofit work, and sought advice from his mentor, J.D. Dallagher, former superintendant of the Air Force Academy and more recently the CEO of the United Way. Dallagher guided Henry to use his security clearances and experience in government contracts in a normal business role, but at the same time get involved in the community through different boards and nonprofits.
Henry has served on the board of directors of the Colorado Procurement Technical Assistance Center almost since its inception in 2009. In 2013, he became its executive director.
Question: What is the business of the Colorado Procurement Technical Assistance Center?
Answer: PTAC is not a business, but rather a public-private partnership executed through a 501c3 structure. We provide no-cost services, including confidential counseling and assistance to any Colorado business desiring to offer products or services to local, state and federal government agencies. Our services include assistance in obtaining the required registrations and certifications; training and instruction about government procurement processes; assistance and knowledge about finding government bid opportunities; review of proposal responses; prime-to-subcontractor matchmaking; and mentoring for contract execution.
Q: Why was the PTAC established and when?
A: The PTAC was established by the Department of Defense - specifically the Defense Logistics Agency - roughly 25 years ago. The DOD saw a need to support companies desiring to consider getting into the government-contracting arena, and recognized that government contracting in and of itself is a barrier to entry. They want to increase competition, increase opportunities for small businesses, and so they were looking for a way for an organization to be set up that could help these companies. There are 94 PTACs across the country.
Q: How do your clients find PTAC?
A: Most of these companies hear of us through some of the federal agencies or small business counterparts at some of the federal agencies. We work closely with the small business offices at Peterson and Schriever Air Force Bases, as well as Fort Carson and the Air Force Academy. Many times they won't see a company that just started into government contracting unless they've been to us first because we educate and prepare them with a foundation. We put them through Government 101, then we continuously help through the process.
Q: How did the recession affect your growth?
A: The first few years we were growing like gangbusters because so many clients wanted to get into the government space as a potential opportunity to expand their portfolio, so maybe it was an indirect result of the recession. Although there was some reduction in government during the recession, the government was still a steady, budgeted opportunity, so we had tremendous growth.
Q: Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs?
A: I think the biggest thing is, know what you want to do with your business. Have a goal in mind of where you want to end up. It's really easy to take the shotgun approach where you spread yourself so thin that you tend not to be able to get much movement in any area. Find the resources available to you and use them, especially if the government is part of your target portfolio. Don't spend money unwisely. There is time for certain counsel that does cost, but there are areas where you can get low-cost or no-cost advice through the Small Business Administration, or the Small Business Development Center, the Workforce Center and entrepreneurial events.
Q: Do you have a personal formula for success?
A: I think success is defined by happiness. I'm a very happy guy. I place family first, and keep a healthy lifestyle in general. I keep active by running and my wife does a great job making sure I eat right. But, then have a passion. Live life with a passion and enjoy everything you do. If you can do that, to me that's the definition of success.
Edited for space and clarity.