Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Surety Bonds Sure Are Making Things More Competitive

Contracting with the government has just gotten a little more interesting. The US Small Business Administration increased the limit on surety bonds for small business contractors from $2 million to $5 million. That extra $3 million means that more small business contractors are going to be able to bid on higher paying contracts that were off-limits to them before.

For many people that does not mean anything; many are left wondering what Surety Bonds are. Most of the definitions that available online are not satisfactory and left me feeling a bit baffled. One way to look at them is that surety bonds are paid for by a third party insurance company, stating that if the contractor should default on a contract the government still gets the job done or has their money returned. A better analogy is that it is like when you buy a new car; during the loan process, you have to prove you have car insurance just in case you total the car before the loan is paid.

What does this mean though? In theory, larger surety bonds are going to help small businesses get more of the stimulus construction contracts, such as paving roads or constructing buildings. Acting SBA Administrator Darryl K. Hairston claims that “These changes will support small and emerging businesses nationwide, particularly construction contractors who have seen their markets hurt by a poor economy and lagging construction environment.” The $3 million increase in surety bonds is only one of the many changes the SBA has made recently. The SBA seems to be going all out trying to help small business gain federal contracts. One of the other changes made to the Federal Register allows the SBA to give a surety bond on a federal contract worth up to $10 million; however the SBA will only award such large Surety Bonds if the contracting officer determines that it is required.

Many contractors have a surety bonds in one form or another, however, not every company will be able to obtain one for $10 million. The range varies depending on the contract and your businesses performances. A thing to keep in mind is that when you are bidding on a contract, make sure that your business can provide what is being asked. The point of a surety bond is to prevent the government from losing money. Ideally you will never need to use one, but it is often required to have one for contracts. Obviously, you never want to default on a government contract because the likelihood of your business ever getting another is slim to none.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Change and Business Growth – Five Steps To Success

There is an old expression that says change is one of the three unavoidable facts of life – the others are death and taxes. Change is both essential to business success and one of the most frightening things a business owner can face; market conditions fluctuate, profits rise and fall, employee turnover… All of these and many more are all an integral part of doing business in today’s world.

Building your business is hard work, and once you have the ball rolling in one direction it can be very difficult to change the course. Doing something differently can be a terrifying prospect, but the best business owners have to stay flexible in order to succeed! Resisting change and trying to stick to the old ways can lead to trouble and worse. Companies that don’t change stagnate, miss growth opportunities, and, even worse, die out.

You’ve seen this time and again. Successful businesses generally have a core area that works well for them, but regularly fiddle with what they do, tweaking and improving constantly to see what works the best for them. Take a look at McDonald’s, for example; a franchise operation that works as a standard cookie-cutter template or mold. They’ve had the same basic setup, offerings, and operations for decades, but try out new things all the time – products, promotions, marketing, everything. Not all of these changes work or are kept, but every once in a while the company finds that perfect new item that makes all the difference and then brings in millions of dollars.

Constant reinvention, innovation, and acceptance of change are what keeps companies like McDonald’s at the forefront of their market. Smaller companies can and should learn from this and be willing to take a leap into a new venture or try out a new way of thinking or doing business! Taking a leap can pay off with huge rewards, as long as you make sure of a few things and follow five steps in a fairly straightforward plan.

1) Plan Your Approach

Before you start any major change or new business venture, have a plan of attack. Know what you want to do, why you want to do it, and do your homework! Don’t go into anything without a good, strong feel for what your strategy is going to be.

2) Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

You have to be realistic. If this new venture or change is going to swamp your business, don’t do it! Keep the proportions manageable – if the resources required to do this are more than you can afford to allocate (and possibly risk losing) then it is a simple decision. Be sure to have a backup plan!

3) Don’t Be Afraid

Having steps 1 and 2 taken care of can make this easier. Fear is one of the most detrimental things to any business, and can dramatically reduce a business owner’s ability to proceed and prosper in a new venture. You have a good plan, and know that it is something you can handle – what is there left to be afraid of?

4) Take The Plunge

As a business owner, by now you have already done this many times. You’ll have to do so many more before your time as a business owner draws to a close. Have your leaps in the past paid off? Obviously, you’re still here! Remember these times and try to do it again.

5) Wait, Evaluate, Measure, And Decide

Now that you’ve had some time working in the new venture, you should evaluate your progress. You don’t want to simply close your eyes and hope; pay attention to what’s going on, tweak what needs to be changed, and keep a fluid plan of attack. Adjust your actions according to the development of what you are doing – if something isn’t working, fix it! Determine whether or not your venture is paying off, or simply burning resources, and decide if you should celebrate and keep it, or accept a loss and move on to the next big idea.

Change should be part of every business owner’s plan. Take a look at how you do business – do you anticipate the need for new ideas, products, markets, or methods? If not, carefully consider your approach; not being prepared can be disastrous.

However, if you are willing to consider expanding your business into new markets, give Gateway to Government a call! We can help you with all five steps and introduce you to a lucrative new business arena.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Stimulus Scams

It appears that nothing is sacred; if there is an opportunity to make money, certain people will take it. Some people, however, have already taken advantage of the stimulus package and are targeting failing small businesses. By making claims that they will be earning a chunk of the stimulus money eventually, small business owners are tricked into believing that by making a small payment they will receive a list of federal grants. What they don’t know about are the alarming number of other charges they will receive.

There are ways of spotting a scam-artist when it comes to the stimulus money. “We started seeing these ads pop up online, promising people could get $10,000, even before the stimulus package was passed,” Better Business Bureau spokeswoman Alison Southwick recently told the LA Times.

There are sites such as ConsumerAffairs.com that are reporting scams that involve buying a CD on obtaining government grants for only $1.98. People are reporting that once the CD has been bought unauthorized charges ranging from $30-$70 have been made on their accounts. One way that you can spot a scammer is if the person approaches you first. A good government contractor consultant knows that the right person will find you. For instance, Gateway to Government has a blog, twitter, Linkedin, facebook, and other ways to contact us in order to ask for help. We aren’t promoting our services yet. Because we know the ins and outs of the industry, we’re interested giving out free information on how small businesses throughout the US can have Uncle Sam be their customer. We don’t make promises about “free money” from the government, but rather, we offer solutions to working more effectively with the government.

These scammers are making large promises with no real proof. Statements such as “Jennifer in WA got her grant check for $10,000… Click Here to Find Out How,” or “FREE GRANT MONEY” should be clear signals that something is wrong. Another common problem is that once your check has cleared, they “disappear” and are unreachable. We’re a real business and you can contact us night or day. It’s hard for businesses such as ourselves to be able to claim “We’re not a scammer” when the scammers use similar marketing tactics to gain people. Another way of spotting a scammer is if their company is not based out of the US. Many of these scammer “companies” are in the Philippines or other countries.

One of the key things to remember is that things aren’t always as they seem online. Dig a little deeper and if you can’t find out more about the business, registered business name, contact information, or even an e-mail address something isn’t right. Also, for blogs, make sure there are actual posts in them. If there are only a few entries, all involving how much money ‘Jessica’ made, it’s a throwaway blog. Remember: even when a contractor works with the government during a contract, the payment isn’t immediate. There is always a waiting period. Don’t trust ads that promise an immediate pay out or grants. Just like when you’re writing a bid, you need to do a little research to make sure everything is in order.

We offer this blog free because we want everyone to know about the joys of Uncle Sam working for you. While we want small businesses to enjoy the benefits of working with Gateway to Government, we don’t actively promote aside from social media sites where you can talk directly with me or one of my co-workers. One of the major problems of scammers is that legitimate businesses such as Gateway to Government are being hurt. The scam-artists use similar tactics to gain people’s trust and give other companies that actually care about their clients a bad name.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rockin' Robin - The Rise of Social Media in Business Marketing

Have you heard of tweeting? Twittering? Tweeps? All of these and many more are terms that have been added to the internet lingo by Twitter, one of a burgeoning group of free social media service websites now being used by more than six million people around the world. The basic principle is simple – network with other ‘Tweeps’ (users of Twitter) and express what you want to say in 140 characters or less – but the effects are proving to be far more wide-ranging than one would expect.

Twitter has recently become very well known due to a few key events: some of the first eyewitness reports of the U.S. Airways plane that landed in the Hudson River were from Twitter, prominent politicians have been seen using it during meetings, speeches, and conferences, and Twitter was heavily utilized during the most recent presidential campaign. Courtesy of this micro-blogging service, news is being spread even more rapidly.

People from all walks of life are now using Twitter every day. Entrepreneurs, news anchors, bands, politicians, artists, business owners, students … All of these and many more are utilizing tweeting (posting on the Twitter website) as a networking and information tool. Charitable organizations are using it - today there is a push for Share our Strength, an organization aiming to reduce child hunger. They are trying to raise $12,000 in 12 hours using Twitter alone - currently they are five hours in and they have almost reached they goal.

An increasing number of big corporations are using Twitter now as well – HP, Microsoft, American Express, and Dell are just a few. In fact, when a coworker recently tweeted about our recent post involving UPS’s ‘no left-turn’ innovation, she was contacted by a UPS employee whose job it is to monitor UPS appearing in social media!

In the three years since its creation, Twitter has become one of the go-to places for entrepreneurs and business owners to learn about, network, and market their businesses. Social media and marketing experts are cropping up all over the place with ways to help streamline this process. People co-promote with each other and people who give good advice, are entertaining, or have some other valuable service are generally recommended to more and more people.

I just started using Twitter about a month or so ago after having heard more and more about it. I currently have about 500 followers, from a wide range of groups – many are total strangers, some are friends or family, others are business contacts. It is easy to get lost in what Twitter offers; an endless stream of interesting stories, blurbs, and thoughts from hundreds of people can be difficult to get away from. Generally, I’ve found it best to simply play the fly on the wall and jump in with a comment if I hear something interesting, or to ask a question of my followers and the ‘twitterverse’ as they come up.

While Twitter and similar social media are becoming increasingly good ways to make business connections, you have to be careful to avoid some basic pitfalls. The hard sell is incredibly unpopular on the site and will lose your credibility faster than virtually anything else. Twitter is meant to be used in a more organic fashion – by building a reputation with other users, they will be driven to use your products or services over time. Another thing to avoid is considering the number of followers you have as a popularity contest; rather than quantity, try to go for the quality of the people you interact with and make better content.

All in all, Twitter is becoming a fairly powerful tool for marketing, networking, and business development. Websites are easy to promote, especially if they have good content. There are numerous external applications that make it even easier to use (for example, one program allows you to search for key phrases in recent tweets – you can find out who is talking about small business government contracting, for example, and start a discussion!) and these can help reduce the time spent on it each day.

Don’t get overwhelmed – Twitter isn’t something that has to be used 24/7! This dynamic word-of-mouth advertising format has made marketing even easier to do, as long as you monitor what you are doing. Just remember that to get anything from it, you will have to give time, effort, and a little bit of yourself, just as you would in any other format.

If you’d like, you can always find Gateway to Government representatives on Twitter. My name is JIstvan and let me know when you get on! LauraGuthrie, my aforementioned coworker, is also worth following - she is a social media expert!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Offline to Online – The Marketing Migration

Whenever I’m talking to my friends about a news story and I can’t remember the exact source, I tell them to Google it. I don’t say it’s in the Free Lane Star or the New York Times; no, it is always Google it. With my parents, though, they always reference the local newspaper, The Journal. I think it only serves three very small counties. The other day I tried finding it online and when I did, the site was pathetic. No up-to-date status on stories; they literally posted the same thing that they put in their paper. The problem with this is that The Journal is only printed once a week. Usually the information is outdated or strictly local.

Most of these small town newspapers are failing in today’s internet journalism. Journalism is still alive and thriving; however, newspapers are dying rapidly. The Tucson Citizen in Southern Arizona will be closing it’s doors after 140 years this Saturday. They aren’t the only ones that are having issues keeping their paper afloat. The LA Times, Chicago Tribune, and Philadelphia Inquirer have all sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the past year.

The question shouldn’t be “Why aren’t people reading the news anymore?” but “Why aren’t newspapers going online?” My friends all have subscriptions to washingtonpost.com and it’s daily e-mails. I still get the real paper delivered to my apartment though. The only reason I have it isn’t habit, but because the subscription was free when I moved in. Now the only thing I use the paper for is kitty litter clean up. Fewer and fewer people still rely on newspapers as their go-to source. I know my Dad is one of them. It might be a generation difference, but more and more there are people in their fifties that prefer to go online and read the stories simply because it cost less.

Journalism won’t be a long-lost art because of the internet. If anything, it’ll make the job better because the information can always be up-to-date instead of eleven hours old. "The overall move to online has been big," IDG chairman Patrick McGovern said. "Print editions are yesterday's news. If it is news, people want to hear it as soon as they can." Journalism has evolved to fit this need of current news being, well, current. The newspapers that are failing aren’t following suit; The Washington Post and The New York Times are still doing well, serving both the traditional newspaper and one online with RSS feeds set-up to the most up-to-date information. These two companies have evolved with journalism; they took the leap from offline to online.

Newspapers aren’t the only companies that are faced with a decision to move online though. Radio made the move as well with sites such as Pandora allowing commercial free music channels that the user creates or iTunes. YouTube, Hulu, Break.com and other sites all have made television or funny videos available to you at any time. The digital age is upon us and being on the internet is critical to survival. Even if it is the simplest site ever, just having it up will help people find your business. I don’t use the phone book to look up businesses; I go to Google and look. The point is that if you don’t evolve, you’ll be left behind with the newspaper stands, yellowing in the sun.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Not Down For the Count: Citigroup’s Round Two

Think about last year, 2008. What comes to mind? For many Americans graduations, vacations, and anniversaries are the first things that pop into their head. However, quickly following these happy thoughts are ones focusing on the declining stock market, job loss, and the economy. I think I’m the only one who thinks it was the year of the rat, which I’m sure no one else but Chinese food lovers know, thanks to the free Christmas calendar. Last year also marked a key time in America’s history—the government didn’t let big businesses fail. Multiple American-based corporations received bailouts to try to keep jobs within the company. One of the recipients was Citigroup and they didn’t just receive one, but two bailouts in 2008 totaling roughly $45 billion.

Not all of the companies that received a bailout have turned a profit since the check came in. However, Citigroup did make a profit for the first time in five quarters. At the end of 2008, Citigroup declared that they had lost $8.29 billion in just the fourth quarter of the year. The government gave them a second chance. The first time around, Citigroup received $25 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, TARP, which barely covers the total loss for 2008 or the five consecutive quarters that the company declared a loss instead of a gain. They got another $20 billion in November of 2008 from the government and yet, Citigroup still declared a loss by the end of the year.

However, the company acknowledged they needed change. Originally, Sanford I. Weill formed Citigroup in 1998 when he combined the insurance company Travelers Group and the nation’s largest bank, Citigroup Inc. It was a revolutionary idea that was supposed to combine insurance, Wall Street business, and traditional banking together; what most of its shareholders quickly found was that it was a flop. Since Citigroup merged, its stock price has fallen more than 76%. Due to its faults, whatever they may be, Citigroup announced in January of 2009 that it would split the company into two facets: Citicorp and Citi Holdings.

Since Citigroup announced the idea for splitting up its company, it has given the government more control over the stocks; the taxpayers technically own up to 36% of them. Before March 10, analysts were predicting that Citigroup would require another loan from the government down the line, but they might be changing their tune soon. On March 9, 2009, the company received an internal memo stating that the first two months of the year were at an $8.3 billion profit before taxes in February. Citigroup’s profit announcement caused the DJIA to soar on March 10 379.44 points to 6926.49; it was the largest one-day gain this year and one of the biggest since World War II.

The spike in Citigroup stock does not mean that their troubles are at an end. Like most companies, big or small, there are difficulties that we all must face. By splitting the company into two, making it easier to manage, and allowing the management to prune the unnecessary waste within the corporation, the company cut back on its early losses in 2009. Small businesses can learn from the big businesses failures. By accepting that what their company originally did wasn’t working, Citigroup took the help that the government offered and tried fixing themselves. They didn’t continue on the same downward path, but tried something a little different. Small businesses will not have as massive of a bailout as Citigroup received, but there will be more opportunities within the government contracting arena that weren’t there before. Taking advantage of what the government offers and implanting change might be the key lesson that needs to be learned by the business community.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Trending Towards Transparency – How the Internet is Forcing People to be ‘Real’

Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and LinkedIn. What do all these sites have in common? They have created a startling new trend among people – being transparent. More and more there are adults on these sites and they are sharing with the world many things that only true friends would know about them. For instance, on Twitter I follow people that I have never met in person; I can tell you where they live, their style of music, what makes them laugh, and their favorite animal. It isn’t just ‘regular folk’ either; politicians, corporations, artists and more are on these sites in an effort to connect with the public and make their business seem more real and trustworthy. I commented about our recent post on innovation on twitter and within an hour I had an UPS employee contacting me to tell me that he has given up left turns in his real life as well!

The best part is that when politicians do anything, others pass along the information. Good, bad, funny—we’ll all know before the 6 o’clock news. That’s a scary thought. President Obama used Twitter and YouTube to his advantage during his campaign by keeping them constantly updated and personal. Someone in his employ understood the importance of instant, transparent access to information, giving him a decided advantage. President Obama has continued using these ideas to be more transparent now that he is in office as well.

According to Las Vegas Sun, the administration has created multiple ways for the public to monitor the stimulus spending. The president thinks that the public must know how government is spending the tax-payer’s money. “The White House created a Web site — www.recovery.gov — for citizens to track progress of spending. And the stimulus bill… contains $330 million for oversight, including $221 million to strengthen the inspectors general and $25 million for the Government Accountability Office…” Another way that the Obama administration is monitoring spending is through the creation of a special faction called the Accountability and Transparency Board, which will be headed by Earl Devaney, former Interior Department inspector general. Devaney states that he will work to stop fraud and waste, not merely detect it as previous administrations have.

This is a huge improvement from previous administrations that have been known for trying to hide what they’re actually doing. Maybe Obama is learning from some of the best Social Media experts who stress constantly that the best way to gain people’s trust and respect is to simply be yourself and hide nothing. Contrary to comedian Lewis Black’s popular skit, Americans don’t want to be lied to anymore. With the internet providing so many sources of instant information, people don’t want to wait to know anymore. While not everyone approves of the action taken by the Obama administration, they aren’t hiding anything; they let everything show on the internet in a wide variety of venues.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Obama Charges Administrators to Reform Contracting

President Barack Obama on Wednesday ordered a much-needed look at and reform of the processes surrounding government contracting and procurement. This is to include virtually all agencies and branches of the federal government, including the Department of Defense, usually exempted from such measures. The following quote is from President Obama via the White House executive memorandum:

“I hereby direct the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)… and the heads of such other agencies as the Director of OMB determines to be appropriate… to develop and issue by July 1, 2009, Government-wide guidance to assist agencies in
reviewing, and creating processes for ongoing review of, existing contracts in order to identify contracts that are wasteful, inefficient, or not otherwise likely to meet the agency’s needs, and to formulate appropriate corrective action in a timely manner. Such corrective action may include modifying or canceling such contracts…”

What does this mean for the small business owner?

Well, that depends. If you have a long-term contract currently in place, immediately make sure that your processes are well documented and defensible. Excess waste should be cut out proactively and inefficiencies need to be addressed – nobody wants a contract canceled so be sure to take a look at what you can do to prevent it.

On the other hand, for companies looking to break into contracting, this is potentially a
tremendous opportunity. As of July 1, 2009, existing long-term contracts will begin to be reviewed. Many incumbent contractors could be hoisted out of their positions, which means that many contracts will have to be refilled. Over the coming year many businesses will be tapped to replace the companies who have their contracts cancelled, so now is a great time to start positioning your business to take their place!

Obama also said he wants to “open up the bidding for contracts to small businesses,” which will help drive even more potential growth to the small business owner!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Innovation and Turning Left

Businesses that stay the same never seem to do well. Take Nokia – they started as a paper mill, but over time evolved into the communications giant they are today! Any good business course will tell you that with changing technology comes the need for your business to be flexible. If it isn’t, chances are your business won’t do as well as you’d hoped. And what brings on change?


Innovation is what keeps businesses going, growing, and running. Particularly in tough economic times like these, new ideas are what give any business the edge to remain afloat and ahead of their competition. Competitive advantage is what all business is about: ideas, practices, concepts, business methods, or anything else that gives your business the opportunity to outperform over others.

On any given day, a company we all know well, UPS, delivers almost 16 million packages, documents, and letters to countries around the world. They have almost 100,000 vehicles in their fleet, composed of cars, vans, tractors, motorcycles, and the iconic signature brown UPS trucks we see everywhere! It is virtually impossible not to see them rounding corners and parking all over the place while the driver runs in to drop off whatever parcel they are delivering. One thing you may not have noticed, however, about UPS trucks:

They. Don’t. Turn. Left.


Photo Credit to Flickr Member zyphbear

That’s right. In 2004, after evaluating rising transportation costs and their environmental impact via CO2 emissions, UPS implemented a novel idea: cut out left turns. They plan delivery routes to avoid the need to turn left; simply by eliminating the time spent idling and waiting for the light signals to turn left, they managed to dramatically reduce fuel costs and several other expense factors. Obviously, in some cases it isn’t possible to totally eliminate it, but by planning to avoid it, UPS estimates that in 2006 they saved over 28.5 million miles of travel and over 3 million gallons of fuel – at 2006 prices (roughly $2.60 per gallon) that would be equivalent to about $7.8 million – just on fuel costs. Include the decreased labor hours, 28.5 million miles less of maintenance, reduction in accidents (left turns have high-accident occurrence rate), reduced environmental impact, and everything else, and UPS saves tens of millions of dollars per year with this one, simple, innovative change.

UPS looked at their existing business and found a new way to improve it. This gives them more money to grow their business, explore new avenues, and find other ways to grow! The UPS example illustrates the power of taking innovative, out-of-the-box, off-the-wall, even crazy ideas – ones which your competitors might scoff at – and Take a look at your business – what areas are going to help you grow? How can you improve your offerings, reduce your unnecessary costs, or add value to your products? Are there any new niches you might want to expand into?

Innovation is what keeps any business running. You already have several competitive advantages - you know what they are. Be they you business model, government sales, a particular patent, that special client, or an unusual business practice, there’s always room for improvement or expansion – who knows, maybe you can discover your own ‘turn-about’ idea!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Budget Cuts and Penny Pinching – Why the Government Isn’t Like Everyone Else

March marks the first time that I have ever actually forced myself to plan a budget. I recently bought a car (Bambi thought my old one wasn’t hip enough and totaled it for me). I’m also looking for a home to purchase; if I stay in my apartment past May, rent increases almost by half! Over the past month’s I’ve found that with my car insurance spiking, rent payment, and everything else, I can’t afford to eat out as much or purchase frivolous items such as bottled water, funny shirts, or DVDs. So, I’m hunkering down, forcing myself to stay in on Friday nights to play monopoly, drinking lots of tap water, and watching cable that’s already paid for.

I’m not here to give finance advice – I’ll leave that to the experts. But I am noticing a trend amongst my friends and coworkers. We’ve all cut back on things that cost money that we used to do on a regular basis without thinking and are saving money as if it’s a precious commodity. Well, for many (and more each day) it is! I’ve been reading more and more in the news about middle-aged individuals losing their jobs and dipping into their 401(k) accounts early or draining their savings to make ends meet. Getting a job isn’t easy either right now, especially when I know people who have applied to dozens of jobs and if they get a response at all it is a rejection. Like many people, I’m planning for the worst and squirreling away anything I possibly can.

So why is the government implementing an economic stimulus package that entails spending nearly a TRILLION dollars instead of saving money?

Many conservatives on www.twitter.com frequently tweet about the stimulus package and how it “oddly” reminds them of the German attempt in the late 20s. I don’t agree. Even though the Obama administration in many cases isn’t putting in formal checks and balances to ensure that the money isn’t misappropriated or poorly handled, many Senators are doing what they can to increase transparency and oversight. Michael W. Brubaker (R-PA), for example, wants to create a nine-member panel in Pennsylvania made up of state officials to manage the economic stimulus money. His state alone is set to receive $10 billion of the money set-aside for state building. If his bill is passed, which hopefully it will be, this panel will help prevent corruption and boost the local economy within the state. However, PA is ahead of the senator and has created a website that will allow the public to monitor the spending.

One of the benefits of posting the spending online is the level of transparency it creates. The stimulus bill is something that the American people have heard about non-stop for the past several months. With the aid of the internet people have access to developing stories 24/7, letting those who are interested keep up-to-the-minute on the progress of governmental affairs, especially with www.CSPAN.com’s streaming feed to the House and Senate debates. This week some of the first expenditures from the stimulus package are happening, focusing mostly on information technology support and staff. Michael Carleton, Health and Human Services Department’s head officer, said, “There are provisions in the law that require the money in the Recovery Act to be subject to a higher level of transparency than is the convention.” Carleton thinks that these expenditures will help make that happen.

I like to compare the stimulus bill to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, designed to create new jobs in the 1930s. Vast swaths of American infrastructure, schools, and even the Appalachian trial exist today because of that plan. States are spending wisely if they invest in IT first because in today’s society, information is the key to getting anything done. Without the necessary support of technology, the spending could in many cases go awry and unchecked. FDR focused on projects that kept the American public busy, while providing future generations with something free to enjoy when there is an economic hardship. We can still enjoy those trails today even though we are budgeting and that should make all of us happy. It makes me forget that I can’t see the latest movie, buy the newest computer, or eat out three times a week.

While it seems ridiculous to many people that the government is spending such tremendous quantities of money during a time when the general public has had to cut back, I think it’s necessary - as long as there is enough transparency with this act. It’s our money, we should see to it that it is properly spent on rebuilding our economy, eventually letting us spend our money as we wish again, hopefully leading us back into prosperity. Right now, the main reason we need the government to put money back into the public is that we can’t spend money to help other businesses out. As much as I would like to, I can’t go down the street to buy from the local farmer’s market; the huge grocery store chain is cheaper, and every penny counts. Businesses will benefit tremendously from the surge in money, especially those involved in government contracting. The more money the government spends on us, the more we’ll have to spend later, which will eventually boost everyone up, even those not involved in contracting who don't get it directly from the government.

The stimulus plan will work because we aren’t just printing money off and hoping for the best; we’re opening Excel, discussing, managing, and making everything transparent so the best decision is made. I’m glad the government is spending money, because I believe that it will lead to me being able to spend mine in the future on what I want, instead of what I need.