May 2016 WIPP Works In Washington
Small Things Come In Big Packages
By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Government Relations Team
In an epic week fueled by bipartisanship, the Senate Small Business Committee and the House Armed Services Committee put small business issues front and center in a way that was nothing short of amazing. This just goes to show that the “do-nothing Congress” does in fact do plenty when it comes to small business.
Let’s first talk about the Senate Small Business Committee. Members of the Committee introduced and are expected to pass three bills important to WIPP. One bill would extend the Small Business and Innovative Research program (SBIR) and a related program the Small Business Technology Transfer program (STTR) and included a mandate to do better outreach to women and minorities (thanks to Michigan’s Senator Gary Peters). The government funds innovative products and services through federal grants to bring the products to commercialization. Don’t know about it—look into it at: SBIR.gov. By the way, this is part of WIPP’s access to capital platform – so another accomplishment for our advocacy.
Are you a contractor? Then you might be interested in the introduction of The Small Business Transforming America’s Regions Act of 2016. If you aren’t aware of the HUBZone program, you should look into it. The government gives a bid preference to companies who invest in low-income areas. It could supplement the WOSB program you already belong to. At least check it out at SBA’s HUBZone Page.
Need capital? The Committee is expected to modernize the Microloan Program administered by the SBA. The program lends $50,000 and below to companies who need capital. In case you didn’t know it, there is a whole nationwide network of lenders who stand ready to lend, backed by the government’s guarantee against failure.
Now onto the House Armed Services Committee. This Committee and its counterpart, the Senate Armed Services Committee, prepare a bill each year, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that funds all military operations. It is a must-pass bill because the military requires certainty in funding. In order for the US to keep its competitiveness, it must have a strong and diverse industrial base. That’s where small businesses come in.
To that end, a whole section of the bill is devoted to small business contracting changes and strengthening resources for women entrepreneurs including women’s business centers. The bill:
- Requires an annual report on the share of contract dollars awarded to small businesses without any exclusions
- Establishes a pilot program that enables contractors to receive a past performance rating by submitting a request to the contracting officer and/or prime contractor
- Requires the SBA to develop a list of no-cost programs that assist small businesses in compliance with Federal regulations.
- Strengthens agency small business offices to recommend which small business set-aside programs should be used for each contract at their agency.
- Requires commercial market representatives (CMRs) to assist prime contractors in identifying small business subcontractors and assess the prime’s compliance with their subcontracting plans
- Adds HUBZone and SDVOSB to small business office oversight (previously not listed in statute but already happening in practice)
In case you do not remember, the Women’s Business Center reforms would raise the funding authorization level by 50% from $14.5M to $21.75M and increase grants to individual centers as well as streamline the program. Better program, better training for women.
How did all of this happen? Champions. The leadership of the House Small Business Committee, which passed the provisions now part of the NDAA, worked together hand-in-glove to assist our businesses. Chair Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Ranking Member Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) set the gold standard of getting things done without a partisan fuss. Similarly, the Senate Small Business Committee, under the guidance of Chair David Vitter (R-LA) and Ranking Member Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) worked together to introduce reforms good for small businesses.
The real story behind all of this activity is the power of small businesses uniting to ask for changes in contracting and better resources to succeed. Organizations, such as WIPP are the champions, walking the halls of Congress to press for better programs and fairness in contracting.
While I would agree that Congress is more partisan than ever before, there are bright spots. This past week was certainly one—all made possible by elected officials crossing party lines for the good of women-owned companies. If you ever wondered what your WIPP membership is paying for or if you need a reason to join WIPP, look no further. The advocacy WIPP provides on your behalf is the best return on investment you may ever find. It requires almost none of your time, requires a minimal monetary investment (dues) and you get a whole team dedicated to advancing your agenda to the Congress on a daily basis.
I call that value.