Westcon To Give VARs The Lowdown On Government Grants

The E-rate TeleTrack seminars educate VARs on the types of grants, application procedures, equipment to purchase and ways to connect with potential customers via the Internet, said Ronald Sheps, vertical markets manager of Westcon Group, Tarrytown, N.Y.

More than 24,000 schools participate in the program nationwide, applying for a slice of the $2.25 billion available, said Sheps. The application period for the program begins Nov. 14 and ends Feb. 7. E-rate grants must include a VAR name, so applying schools already must have partnered with a reseller. The government pays VARs directly.

The online training -- free to Westcon, Comstor and Voda One partners -- is being offered on Nov. 7 and Nov. 9. The first course is for solution providers looking to learn about the programs or to refresh their knowledge. The second is geared for solution providers with more E-rate grant experience and focuses on expediting the federal government's payment process, which can be 90 days or more.

"What we're trying to do is train our resellers to learn the intricacies of the market," said Sheps. "The only way we're more successful is to make our partners more successful." Previous training sessions have had up to 320 participants tuning in, he added.

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Frank Spaeth, vice president and COO of Network Infrastructure, a Tempe, Ariz.-based Cisco VAR, has participated in the training offered by Westcon's Comstor division. For Spaeth, Comstor's advice and assistance has helped keep the cash flowing into his company shown him how to find information on the program.

"E-rate has been notorious in the past for not paying promptly, and Comstor has a program where they will give you 90-day terms on E-rate opportunities. So that's huge," Spaeth said. "We've been using that for the past three years, and that's critical because sometimes you're paying a Comstor, an Ingram or a Tech Data that expects to get paid in 30 days and E-rate [takes longer than that to pay]. ... It's much better these days, but it has been sometimes over 90 days."

"That's pretty tough when you're floating a couple million dollars worth of equipment," he added. "It's probably a common VAR problem for anybody who participates in E-rate. [Westcon's] help in those areas is really important."