It's election week. Once again we're asked to consider our civic duty. Most people pay taxes, and deal with a fare share of bureaucracy. But many in business don't know how to engage with government in meaningful ways and take advantage of all that government can do to help business.

Many government entities provide opportunity and support at the local, state and federal level with the Small Business Administration (SBA) being the largest provider of services. But you have to take the first step. Commit a couple of hours to searching the websites for your city and state and you'll likely find grants, tax breaks, enterprise subsidies, loan programs and even contracts all designed to help you grow. They might take a little work to get going, but then again, you paid for it, you may as well take advantage and get some ROI on your tax dollars.

Here are additional insights from my Inc. colleagues.

1. Experiment Locally

My company was interested in developing a practice to consult with corporations on Section 508--a set of laws that require equal access to technology for individuals with disabilities. In order to establish this practice, we worked with local government-funded organizations and provided our services at or below cost. These projects gave us the expertise and connections we needed to win 508 consulting business with larger commercial organizations.  It also led to our first full price engagements with the government for our traditional services and ultimately solidified us as a government contractor. Eric Holtzclaw--Lean Forward

Want to read more from Eric? Click here.

2. Get Involved

Small businesses and the people who lead them are darlings of the political scene. From the much-quoted stat that small businesses create more jobs than large ones to debating whether taxes on highest incomes hurt entrepreneurs, in the current climate, small business = good. That's why, sequester or no, the SBA still offers assistance and loans. Return the favor by getting involved in government. Here in Woodstock, NY, the town supervisor is taking a sabbatical from his roofing business. My husband, who runs a small computer consulting business, served on the Town Board's Telecommunications Committee. You can make your community better - and your business more visible at the same time. Minda Zetlin--Start Me Up

Want to read more from Minda? Click here.

3. Get Certified

Many Fortune 500 companies have supplier diversity programs that award subcontracting opportunities to small and minority-owned businesses. Likewise, the U.S. Government purchases nearly $100 billion worth of goods and services from small businesses each year. You may be missing a multi-million dollar opportunity if you qualify, but aren't certified as a woman- and/or minority-owned business.  I've seen clients grow profits exponentially by fulfilling government contracts: in one case from $130 thousand in annual revenues to 35 million! Take a look at this SBA tool to see if you qualify as a vendor and to take the first steps. Marla Tabaka--The Successful Soloist

Want to read more from Marla? Click here.

4. Schmooze Your Way In

Although they sure have a funny way of showing it sometimes, federal, state and local government and government departments and agencies are actually BIG fans of small business. There are an endless number of programs targeted directly at helping small businesses, from SBA loans, to small business technology assistance programs, to small business set asides (where only small businesses are allowed to bid on contracts), to start-up incubators and accelerators--the list goes on and on. Although government workers have to abide by strict ethical standards (a good thing), you can get a lot of traction within the government by networking with small business representatives in the various government department and agencies. Everyone wants to work with people they know and like, and it's no different for those in the government. Learn the fine art of the schmooze and be rewarded! Peter Economy--The Management Guy

Want to read more from Peter? Click here.

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