The $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), otherwise known as "the stimulus bill," was enacted in February, but funds have just begun to trickle out. That's in part because much of the funding first flowed to various government agencies, states, and towns, which are only now disbursing it to private businesses. While medical-information technology, education, transportation, energy-efficiency, and green-technology projects are especially well positioned, experts say companies in all sectors should assess their eligibility to get a piece of the pie — and their willingness to tackle the thicket of requirements and rules needed to get it. Some advice:
1. Think long-term. Most of the funds available so far require companies to essentially become government contractors in order to even be considered. Attaining that status requires a lot of work, such as creating specific systems to audit and track how the government funds are being spent. You'll also have to report how many jobs you've saved or created — by October 10. And in some cases you must match all or some of the funding.
2. Be prepared to dig. Stimulus-related opportunities do not appear in one central location, but rather across dozens. Recovery.gov lists 3 federal Websites that contain various opportunities, along with links to some 55 state and territorial funding sites. From there you'll have to pick through the language to spot your opportunity. Small wonder that consulting firms are raking in business in this area. Some will tackle it on a contingency basis.
3. Think of it as a way to accelerate, not initiate. While a broad range of companies could potentially benefit from the funds, it would be hard to launch a whole new business line funded by them. Most recipients have one to three years to complete the work, with the entire recovery program wrapping up (in theory) in 2012. The best candidates are seeking funds for "something they already have in the hopper," says one consultant.
Who's Been Served to Date?
Some companies that have recently won ARRA funds
The company has been awarded contracts totaling approximately $25 million under the ARRA and has bids on some 2,700 ARRA projects worth $800 million.
In August the company won a $249 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for the lithium-ion automotive batteries it is developing. Under the terms of the grant, A123 will be required to match the funds over time as they are used.
Fluor was recently awarded $600 million from the ARRA to help clean up old nuclear facilities in South Carolina.
The company is benefiting indirectly from stimulus funds channeled into school budgets; sales related to the funds were up 40% year over year in June and July.