Tracking the Stimulus Spending with Recovery.org
Tracking the Stimulus Spending with Recovery.org
Marc Gunther: Hi, this is Marc Gunther for GreenBiz. I'm speaking with Eric Gillespie, the chief information officer for Onvia. Onvia is the company that started Recovery.org. That's a place where you can track all of the spending coming out of the federal government's $787 billion stimulus bill. Eric, tell us a little bit about Onvia and why you started Recovery.org.
Eric Gillespie: Onvia is a business that tracks the procurement activity of all federal, state, and local governments' activity. So, you know, as a business we take all that information real time as it's happening in the marketplace every day, we aggregate it, and we provide that to our clients who are largely small and medium businesses who are interested in selling their goods and services to those government entities. So we alert them when the government wants to buy what they have. That's the business we're in.
As the stimulus legislation was being discussed and came forward in the fall, we realized that we had a unique set of processes and a unique data set that could help get those contracts in the hands of contractors faster and accelerate capital absorption in local communities and actually be stimulative, have an economic impact faster. So we put up Recovery.org with the purpose of helping not only our clients but businesses in general get access to those RFPs and bids that are out there.
MG: And you and I, Eric, have spent time on the Recovery.org site, but for those who haven't had a chance to visit it yet, what's it intended to do? How does it work?
EG: The interface is fairly rudimentary. It presents a map of the United States into which you can drill by state and by county and get a comprehensive view of the spending that's happening in that geographic footprint in real time every day, a fairly simple way to drive into, you know, what's happening in your backyard or the area in which if you're in business you do business.
MG: And what are some of the categories of small, medium, or even large companies that are likely to find projects that will expand their business by visiting Recovery.org or Onvia generally?
EG: Well, we cover every vertical, so whether it's architecture, engineering, construction, infrastructure or information technology, healthcare, energy, renewable energy, water, we really cover the spectrum in terms of a comprehensive view of all verticals, so regardless of which vertical you're in, you're guaranteed to have a timely, complete, and accurate view of what's happening in the marketplace.
MG: Now one of the goals of the stimulus project was obviously to stimulate the economy. We're still in a recession. We're losing jobs. Generally speaking, is the money moving through the federal, state, local system and out into the private sector as best you can tell?
EG: It is, but I don't think it's moving as fast as anyone expect -- or most people expected. I don't believe it's been a stimulative as it was originally projected to be at this point in time and what you are seeing at this point because of provisions in the legislation that are "use it or lose it" provisions is a preponderance of spending in transportation, so it's a lot of road construction projects.
The legislation stated that if 50 percent of those funds were not allocated within the first 120 days following passage of the bill that the states would lose those funds and they'd be redistributed to other needy states, so the projects that are out there today are mostly transportation.
In the coming months and over the next year or two you're going to see a large number of IT projects, a lot of healthcare IT. You'll see a lot of energy, renewable energy, a lot of water products -- projects, wastewater treatment, water purification, so you'll see the mix of projects change in the coming months beyond transportation.
MG: Since your core business, Eric, is selling this kind of information, what was it that led you to in a sense give away this data about the stimulus project on Recovery.org?
EG: The information that's at Recovery.org and the stimulus projects in general only represent about 2 percent of the total number of projects at any given time that are happening around the country that are financed by federal, state, and local governments, so it's a -- you know, a trillion dollars is a lotta money. There's no question about that. But in the overall scheme of things, it's a relatively small drop in the bucket in terms of how the government allocates capital and spends capital.
So the assumption and the reason we put this up for free was we could give away a very small percentage of the projects that really helped the economy, that might help stimulate activity and create jobs, keep the other 98 percent for our core business, which we continue to sell, and everybody wins. There's transparency. There's accountability. You accelerate job creation. We get brand recognition out of it. It's really a win-win for everyone.
MG: Last question: To some degree, the last year has been a story of economic power moving away from Wall Street and towards Washington. We're about to get a big healthcare bill on top of the stimulus, energy legislation. Has the Obama administration been good for Onvia and your business?
EG: (Laughter) There's no question that there's been a historic shift of power toward D.C. I think that's absolutely true. And we're politically agnostic in this. You know, we don't really have an opinion politically about what the right approach is, but that said, the activity that we've seen, the spending levels we've seen, and what's been proposed, what we expect to be spent in the coming years during this administration has certainly been helpful to our business, and we expect it to continue to be helpful to our business.
We track spending by federal, state, and local government. That's the business we're in, and we monetize that by making it valuable to the small and medium businesses that are out there in the country. That's only going to increase, in our opinion, with this administration, not decrease.
MG: Great. Well, thank you, Eric. Since we are on radio here, why don't you spell the name of the company and the website?
EG: Sure. The company is Onvia. You can find us at Onvia.com. And the timely, accurate, and comprehensive view of stimulus is at Recovery.org. That's not to be confused with the federal government's website, which is Recovery.gov.
MG: Right. As almost anyone who has looked at both sites will agree, although their purposes are different, Recovery.org, your site, is a far more comprehensive and timely site. So, Eric, thank you for taking the time with GreenBiz. It's been good to talk with you.
EG: Thank you for your time. I appreciate it.