President’s Corner – June 2018

Action always beats intention – and the future depends on what we do today.

Candace Waterman         WIPP President & CEO

From its inception, the core of WIPP’s mission has been uniting women entrepreneurs across the country to raise their voices and take action on issues impacting their business.  At WIPP we know that engagement of women business owners, like you, as well as organizations and corporations that support women entrepreneurship will lead to better policies and more accountable public officials.

To help us in our work to improve the economic and regulatory climate for women in business, I’m excited to announce WIPP’s 2018 Advocacy Pillars:

  • Create Parity for Women-Owned Small Businesses in Federal Contracting
  • Infrastructure Improvements
  • Fairness in the Workplace
  • Modernizing Our Tax Code
  • Increasing Access to Capital for Women

These pillars represent the core issues critical to the success of women business owners and the areas of policy WIPP will focus on in our advocacy efforts. WIPP’s Economic Blueprint provides you with a deep dive in each of these issue areas and discusses some of the current legislation as well as WIPP policy recommendations on our 2018 Advocacy Pillars.

In addition to our focus on advocacy, access to procurement opportunities is a top priority for WIPP. We are also launching our 2018 Procurement Education Platform which focuses on the following topics that are in alignment with, and support our Advocacy Pillars:

  • Doing Business with the Federal Government
  • Building Capacity
  • Financing Growth

We will work to bring you relevant educational content, webinars, events and develop partnerships that help support these key areas to federal contracting success.  WIPP already has an extensive catalog of helpful recorded webinars you can explore and a number of upcoming events around our popular procurement initiatives – Give Me 5 and ChallengeHER. We look forward to building on this great work.

The future depends on what we do today – and WIPP continues to take action to ensure that women business owners continue to be a strong economic force in the United States and increasingly, in the world.

Small Things Come In Big Packages

AnnSullivan new

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.

 

So Close and Yet So FAR

Despite its official passage into law and SBA’s implementation, some contracting officers in federal agencies are waiting for the addition of official language to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to use the new sole source authority in the women’s procurement program. We have seen first hand that regardless of SBA’s assurances that the law is ready to use, some agencies are reticent to use the new authority until the FAR has officially adopted the change in law. The Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council has already drafted the rule, which is currently in a review phase. And so we wait.

 

sole sourceOn October 14th, after many years of advocacy spearheaded by WIPP, sole-source authority for Women Owned Small Businesses (WOSB) officially went into effect.  The Small Business Administration (SBA) fast-tracked its official rule authorizing WOSB sole-source, allowing Contracting Officers to cite the rule and award sole source contracts. SBA encouraged agencies to use the new law upon release—before the October 14 date.  

 

How can women business owners speed the process and become an early pioneer in sole source contracts? Sharing key information with federal agencies is important. Small business offices as well as the contracting community need education on the program.  Since this is the newest small business contracting program on the books, many acquisition officials are still getting used to it.  The sole source piece, although mirroring the HUBZone program, is brand new and worthy of explanation.

 

Resources from WIPP such as the criteria for a WOSB sole source article, SBA’s final rule on sole source, and any future rulings by federal agencies reinforcing sole source awards for WOSBs, can help Contracting Officers support a sole source justification. ChallengeHER events now being held around the country are an excellent venue for learning about the WOSB program and recent changes.  

 

And, it is important to dispel the myth that sole source justifications can only be used if your company is the only company in the universe that has a particular product or performs a specific service. Take a look at other sole source justifications found at FBO.gov. You will find that reasons such as close proximity to the buyer, employing the most highly skilled staff, and the ability to customize a product have all served as justifications for sole-source awards in other programs.
We are so close but every day that the FAR Council fails to act, some woman owned company stands to lose what could have been a contract award.  WIPP, through its advocacy, will continue to do what it takes to get this final piece in place.