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Can Recovery.Gov Get Local in Time to Help?

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, April 1 2009

recovery.org+logo.jpg (JPEG Image, 300x300 pixels)Economic recovery -- and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in particular -- is big business in more ways than one. Firms and individuals with years of experience wading in the flow of government monies are working to figure out their place in this new world order. Onvia, a Washington State company that connects would-be contractors with government contracts -- has released Recovery.org. (Count Joe Biden extraordinarily confused.) The company is making the argument that it has taken them ten years and more than a hundred employees to develop the contacts and subject-matter expertise necessary to track government contracts all the way down to the local school board or highway authority or mosquito abatement program that actually doles out federal dollars to contractors. The Onvia site is offering up what they know on ARRA contracts for free. (The company's hope, of course, is that you might find their information valuable enough to pay for a fuller taste.) OMB's Recovery.gov has its head in the right place, the company argues, but the job is simply too big and too complex to approach from the top down. Do they have a point? One piece of evidence in favor of their interpretation: USAspending.gov, the product of legislation co-sponsored by a junior senator by the name of Barack Obama, is still struggling to drill down to the subcontractor level some three years after its launch.

(In case you're wondering on Onvia managed to get their hands on the Recovery.org domain, the company says that they leased it from a substance abuse rehabilitation service before Obama announced the name of his site. Lucky break!)