NSI News

GridPoint fights for slice of stimulus

Friday, February 20, 2009 — Washington Business Journal

by Darlene Darcy, Staff Reporter

GridPoint Inc. is fast at work with electric companies to craft “smart grid” projects the Department of Energy won’t be able to refuse. GridPoint’s potential prize: a chunk of DOE’s $4.5 billion to help make electric power grids more efficient.

The Arlington-based company is not alone. With federal agencies poised to spend billions on information technology through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, tech companies of all types are trying to get some of that money.

Stimulus dollars for improved electricity delivery likely will be funneled to utilities, which have put smart grid projects on hold because of cost constraints but now will be looking for partners to begin those projects.

“That’s where we come in,” said Karl Lewis, GridPoint’s chief strategy officer.

GridPoint already has partnered with electric companies on projects, including Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy Inc.’s $100 million SmartGridCity in Boulder, Colo.

Consulting businesses specializing in government contracting also see an opportunity to help tech companies win a share of the stimulus.

Timothy Onoff, president of National Strategies Inc., said his District-based consulting company is offering clients tailored lists of stimulus opportunities from its database of more than 20,000 projects.

“Information is going to be power for the companies that want to compete,” he said. “There is a tremendous amount of education that needs to be done.”

Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services Inc., which has its government operations in the Washington area, is lobbying states to install electronic toll systems and other intelligent transportation technologies.

“We know a number of states have set up task forces to make sure that they allocate this money so that they don’t loose it,” said Parker Williams, ACS vice president.

While new procurements may be competitive, he said, “states have contracts with us and other companies that can be amended” to buy more transportation technologies.

Many government IT projects already are funded through existing contracts, which the government will use for stimulus spending, said attorney Marcia Madsen of Mayer Brown LLP, who chairs the Acquisition Advisory Panel, which advises the Office of Management and Budget.

Some businesses could win part of the $19 billion the Department of Health and Human Services will use to improve health care delivery.

For example, Perot Systems Government Services in Falls Church might see its health IT business grow from customers that hope to qualify for stimulus-funded reimbursements of technology investments.

“It opens that door again to make the investment,” said Harry Greenspun, Perot Systems’ chief medical officer. However, because money will go directly to care providers rather than to tech companies, Perot is “really going to have to follow how the funds get distributed,” he said.

In getting stimulus dollars, companies that understand an agency’s needs will have an advantage.

“There is going to be so much scrutiny of the companies who get this money ... and folks who sort of dabble in this for the first time are going to have an uncomfortable experience,” Madsen said.

Who will win?
Timothy Onoff, president of National Strategies, says companies that want to successfully leverage opportunities from stimulus spending need to:

Have tools in place to identify opportunities and gather information about them.
Understand the components and timing of the package — where funding is targeted and how it will be contracted.
Make sure opportunities align with their company’s lines of business and expertise.
Develop a market strategy that coordinates resources, including the right people in the field to execute it.

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For more information, please contact Heather Sabharwal at hsabharwal@kglobal.com or 202-349-7016.