Manufacturer Gets Help Navigating New Bid Process

A Cherokee manufacturer has utilized their ongoing relationship with CIRAS to understand a new bid process, expand its list of potential customers, and learn how to certify its cybersecurity protocols.

Bob Simonsen, marketing manager at RJ Thomas Manufacturing, recently contacted CIRAS Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) government contracting specialist Mary Zimmerman for assistance with a federal bid invitation. The government was transitioning to a new website for bids, and some companies, like RJ Thomas Manufacturing, weren’t getting notified.

“Mary used her sources to contact the issuing office,” said Simonsen. “We were able to respond to the bid, and though we didn’t get the award, we feel better positioned for the next opportunity.”

RJ Thomas Manufacturing builds and sells park equipment including benches, picnic tables, charcoal grills, bike racks, trash bins, and more. Zimmerman has provided leads for them to increase their work with the federal government.

“I gave them a list of other agencies to contact like the National Parks system,” said Zimmerman. “Generally, the first step is to review the website. Some sites are user friendly, but some require a bit more work to drill down to find the opportunities and potential contacts. That’s something I can help with.”

The company also recently took advantage of a webinar detailing the process to certify cybersecurity protocols. The federal government now requires Cybersecurity Capability Maturity Model (CCMM) certification for all contractors that want to work with them.

“Our products are currently considered off-the-shelf items, so certification doesn’t yet apply to us,” said Simonsen. “But it was helpful to learn about something that will probably trickle down. When that happens, we’ll be prepared, thanks to CIRAS.”

Interactions between RJ Thomas Manufacturing and CIRAS have grown beyond government bidding assistance. Last year, Simonsen and another employee participated in a series of webinars on web design and evaluation. The company’s human resources department regularly checks the CIRAS website for pertinent webinars and updated COVID information. Simonsen said the company’s production department often reaches out to CIRAS as well.

For more information on assistance with the government contracting process, contact Mary Zimmerman at maryz@iastate.edu or 515-450-1278.