General Services Administration Administrator Martha Johnson spoke about a number of agency initiatives during a speech at the Enterprise Center in Philadelphia last week including the creation of BusinessUSA.gov, the ongoing role of data.gov, the challenges of the schedule programs and the administration’s efforts to create jobs.
On the creation of BusinessUSA.gov
For too long, entrepreneurs – and especially small-business owners – have been forced to navigate a confusing maze of government agencies to get their answers. The president has made it clear that this is unacceptable. He believes that we need to give U.S. businesses every opportunity and tool to succeed so that they can grow and hire and thrive right here in America. So, GSA has just rolled out a new website, BusinessUSA.gov. It’s an online platform for businesses to access the services and information they need.
I know, I know – there are websites and then there are websites. Trust me: This one is cool. It’s a virtual one-stop shop where businesses can find the full encyclopedia of resources. They can get assistance with patents, find loans, unearth information on contracting opportunities, and start to navigate into new markets overseas. The site takes a “no-wrong-door” approach with a common platform to match businesses with government services. GSA worked with businesses, entrepreneurs, and relevant online communities to create BusinessUSA.gov. We will continue to evolve the site, so give us feedback. I should note that BusinessUSA.gov also helps the government meet the president’s goal of streamlining business-related agencies so they can meet the needs of America’s businesses in the 21st century global economy.
Another site that makes GSA proud is Data.gov, which is a portal for the public to engage with the rivers of information available to the government. This site directly democratizes data. It brings the public in and pushes information out. This means data sets – new data sets – are now available to researchers, scholars, historians, scientists, economists, engineers, meteorologists, and small-business owners. This is a whole new order of transparency.
We are seeing access by many to unprecedented amounts of data. Go to Data.gov yourself. It’s a kick. You’ll find grain transport reports, aquaculture statistics, trademark registration information, weather data. It’s easy, available, and mind-bending.
On the Schedule Programs
Frankly, getting on the schedules is sort of like being walked to the altar. It takes a lot of work and money to get there and then, oh my, it takes a lot more work to make it work. And, I’m speaking here looking at 30 years next year. Or, maybe the better way to say it is that getting the fishing license doesn’t guarantee you’ll catch the fish.
And, from our side of things, it costs more than $3,000 a year to maintain nonselling companies on the schedules. That nets to about $24 million per year in taxpayer dollars maintaining a catalog of firms that aren’t receiving government business.
That doesn’t make sense any way you cut it. Businesses are spending money to get onto the schedules, we’re spending money to keep them on the schedules, but there’s no money flowing back to business. This is simply not fair to business and particularly small business.