Doing business with the government can be difficult, but it can also be a good source of revenues. Just ask companies such as SAIC (NYSE:SAI) and Boeing (NYSE:BA), which, in turn, might turn to Onvia (NASDAQ:ONVI), a company that develops databases to make dealing with Uncle Sam a lot easier.

Yet even though Onvia can help improve others' odds of scoring contracts, it is still very much a niche company. At least for now. In its third-quarter earnings report last week, the company reported revenues up 16% to $4.3 million and a net loss of $849,000, or $0.11 per share. That compares with a net loss of $1.5 million, or $0.19 per share, in the same period a year ago.

Since its start about five years ago, Onvia has been building proprietary databases on the public sector. These databases are extensive and include several million procurement records from 71,000 government agencies. Onvia currently has roughly 9,200 customers. That's down from about 9,500 last year, but management has been focusing on high-value customers.

The company gets its revenues from two sources -- subscriptions, which usually run for a minimum term of a year; and license revenues, in which companies resell Onvia services. Licenses make up about 15% of overall revenues.

New-product launches are helping, too. Onvia Business Builder provides useful features such as information on government buying patterns and opportunities, in addition to other competitive intelligence. Other notable products include the Onvia Navigator -- a search engine that lets customers enter keyword queries on a variety of proprietary databases.

However, the fact remains that Onvia is a tiny company. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, the problem is that revenues are growing mostly at a decent rate -- but not enough to get investors excited. In fact, over the past few years, the stock price has been stuck in a stubborn range of $4 to $6 per share. That may be good for a short-term trader, but it's not much good for an investor seeking sustained growth.

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Fool contributor Tom Taulli does not own shares of companies mentioned in this article. He is currently ranked 150th out of more than 12,000 players in Motley Fool CAPS, the Fool's new stock-rating community.