Think you’ve been overlooked in the $787 billion economic stimulus package? Architecture and engineering (A/E) firms may find more opportunities than they would expect, says Elaine Howley, editor of the recently released manual, Guide to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, produced by ZweigWhite, a Massachusetts-based research and consulting firm.

“A lot of designers are put off by the term ‘shovel-ready,’” Howley says. “They think this bill isn’t really for them, but that’s not necessarily the case.”

Howley notes that while getting shovels in the ground is a priority, government agencies with stimulus funds have a wide variety of demands to get projects moving, from updating existing designs to helping with permitting issues and other consulting roles.

“There are tons of small opportunities for A/Es,” she says. “As individual projects, they aren’t going to be bread-and-butter for some firms, but they will help fill the void.”

Working fast and reaching out to potential clients are among the major themes of the 82-page guide. The report notes that contracts must be in place by mid-August, 180 days after the bill was signed by President Barack Obama, so time is of the essence.

“Approach these agencies as soon as you can to help them solve the issue of how to spend this money quickly,” Howley adds. “They are looking for answers.”

In addition to detailed analysis of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and where funds are headed, the guide offers a list of agencies and other resources to contact for project information. It also lays out strategies on how to win stimulus-funded projects, including tips on how to prepare an application and how to differentiate your firm from the competition.

Firms also need to be aware of the opportunities beyond the ARRA. Howley adds that many government entities are moving projects out of their current capital programs so that they can be funded through the stimulus plan. This could free up more funds for new long-range projects with more intensive design and engineering demands, she says, adding “it’s an indirect benefit of the bill that could be particularly helpful to A/Es.”

The guide, released April 2, is available for download from ZweigWhite for $145.