Federal Business Contracts: How To Gain Greater Access

How You Can Gain Greater Access to Federal Contracts

SBA Creating Access and Opportunity for Women-Owned Small Businesses via ChallengeHER

marie johns
SBA Deputy Administrator Marie Johns

Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and, over the last two decades, small and new businesses have created two out of every three net new jobs in the United States. At the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), we work with small businesses around the country on a daily basis to help their businesses thrive. And we know that small business contracting is one of the biggest tools we have at the federal level to help America’s small businesses grow and create jobs. That’s because federal contracting with small businesses is a win-win.

Every year, the U.S. government awards nearly $100 billion in federal contracts to small businesses, and small businesses can use these contracts to grow their revenues and create jobs right here at home. Meanwhile, the federal government gets the chance to work with some of the most responsive, innovative and nimble companies in the United States.

During the first three years of the Obama Administration, the federal government awarded $286.3 billion in federal contract dollars to small businesses. This is a $32 billion increase over the three preceding years, even as contracting spending overall has declined across the federal government.

At SBA, we want to ensure that more qualified women-owned, minority-owned and veteran-owned small businesses have access to government and commercial supply chain opportunities.

That’s why we put into place the Women’s Contracting Rule, which means that for the first time federal agencies can set aside contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses in over 300 industries where women are underrepresented. This January, President Obama also signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, allowing women-owned small businesses to have greater access to federal contracting opportunities by removing the contract dollar thresholds.

And in April, I joined our partners in Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) and American Express OPEN to announce our new ChallengeHER Campaign–leveraging our collective resources to promote the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program and bring more women-owned firms into the federal government’s supply chain.

We’ve also improved application processing times for our successful 8(a) Business Development Program, a nine year program for disadvantaged small business owners that allows them to become eligible for sole source and limited competition government contracts.

The program helps small business owners develop and grow their businesses through one-to-one counseling, training workshops and management and technical guidance. It also provides access to government contracting opportunities, allowing them to become solid competitors in the federal marketplace.

This type of intensive development is a proven success for African American business owners like Marjorie Perry, president of MZM Construction in Newark, New Jersey. Back in 1998, Marjorie’s business needed capital; she got an SBA loan that not only helped her to fulfill a government contract, but allowed her to compete for larger projects. We also worked with Marjorie to become an 8 (a) contractor, and her business grew from 9 employees to 28 employees and her revenues are now more than $7 million a year. Under Perry’s guidance, MZM Construction has enjoyed 19 years of profitable performance, including work on such projects as the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and Meadowlands Giants & Jets Sports Arena.

And our 8(a) program is a proven and powerful tool in helping small minority- and women-owned businesses like Marjorie’s to grow and succeed. We currently have more than 5,800 firms certified through the 8(a) program. In 2011 alone, participating 8(a) businesses obtained nearly $17 billion in federal contracts.

At the SBA, we’re working every day to get more small businesses into the federal supply chain and help them access the federal procurement dollars that can help a small business grow and prosper. To learn more about how to register for the 8(a) program, click here.